August 16, 2013
If somebody paid me for it, I could probably call myself a “professional blogger”. From my beginnings as a webmaster, way way, way back during the last decade of the last century, I have always “timestamped” each paragraph I posted online. I started ‘internetting’ late in life. I’m 60 as I write this latest in a long long line of blog entries, and the first words I ever posted to the internet, when I was 46 years old, were the words contained in a poem I wrote to celebrate the occasion. It was called “bornagain”.
Many of the countless essays I’ve essayed over the decades online propose that our “online lives” are essentially our legacies (or could and possibly should be). I cringe when a site on which I’ve meticulously laid out a virtual roadmap of my existence goes dark, because I have to dredge up those files and post them somewhere else. Since my first website began to light a personal beacon in cyberspace, I’ve nearly written my complete autobiography (and it’s a long one, like this post is going to be). I’ve “published” serial “blognovels”. I’ve posted hundreds of poems. (thousands if you count the ones I transcribed from the “pre internet age”)
During this time I’ve made lots of supposed “friends.” Some I’ve met. A few I’ve loved. (And I’ve had sex with at least one, but I’m not telling.) As I age, and as the internet ages with me, it seems like younger generations don’t create the “divide” we did back in the late 90s. (or earlier, if you’re old enough to have had a home computer and “social networked” on the hypertext based internet which existed before the web in 1989.) To someone who has grown up with digital connections and online friends lists, there may be no difference between someone with whom one skypes daily and someone with whom one shares a walk to school in real life. With homeschooling becoming more widespread, and with universities establishing ‘online’ schools, there may even be a school of thought which supposes that interacting IRL may someday be moot.
This is the story of the strangest relationship I have had on the Xanga blogging service, where my sporadic blog finally ended up in 2004. We begin in May of 2009 with a chatboard post. I’d just celebrated my 56th birthday, and my 5th Xangaversary was coming up at the end of the month. I rarely “used” the chatboard, sort of a cross between an Instant messenger and an email client. Xanga was experimenting with so many things back then in an attempt to stop users from migrating to MySpace that there seemed to be a quite nervous atmosphere around the blogsite, and lots of stuff would appear, disappear, reappear, and generally bamboozle both newbies and longtime bloggers like myself.
“Hey Mike, I am glad to have you on my friends list. I saw you over on TheBigShowBlog where you were commenting on “dropping like flies.” I am trying to build up a very intelligent readership for my Xanga which I have only been blogging for about a week, and you looked like a great person to touch base with.
By the way, I have always thought that bald men are the sexiest of all.” QueenLoonatic (not her real username)
In those days, I was known for my long letter/comments which I littered among the posts in the Xangasphere. The message from QueenLoonatic intrigued me. She appealed to my intelligence, offered gratitude, asked for assistance, and sort of flirted for good measure. The message pushed a few of my buttons, and I visited her fledgeling blogsite, dropped a few comments, and began what at first seemed like a healthy, friendly, internet relationship.
In time, we were not only visiting each other, but private messaging as well. I make a point not to “do chat”. However, our interplay on the Xanga message service was quite vibrant, and became personal. She asked for adivce on a number of topics, always stoked my ego and fanned the flames of my boiling desires. She flirted shamelessly, both in messages and in her blog entries. We talked about depression, and opened up to each other. She would mention me in her blogposts, and I would reciprocate. We seemed to be good online buds. We were both in the same age group. She posted photos of herself, both older and recent. As do I. She kind of reminded me of my old girlfriend Pat, a gal I attempted to “save” when in a real life relationship back in the 90s, and with whom I was hopelessly in love (but which relationship, as I’ve written, became sort of a living hell till it finally ended). Queen and Pat even looked alike somewhat. I probably transfered a lot of my feelings for Pat to QueenLoonatic, and possibly should have seen the similarities as triggers, but I naively kept up appearances, and for a year or so, I actually thought perhaps QueenLoonatic and I may someday become an “item” and she might become one of those rare “online personalities” who would eventually show up in my real life.
She lived a few states away from me, but blogged about plans to move to Southern California. I was pretty excited at this prospect. We messaged about meeting each other.
By 2011, I wasn’t blogging as regularly as I was in the years previously. I would go on long hiatuses. When I “met” QueenLoonatic I’d just purchased my home, and had just received my hip revision surgery, so blogging was low on my list of pursuits. However, I would sometimes “come back” to Xanga in a creative whirlwind, and create posts which would appeal to the community at large. I was constantly jesting with Dan over at TheTheologiansCafe, the most popular blog on Xanga, and I was friends and correspondents with many of the “Xangalebrites” of the day. It was a comment I lefr on a post on the popular TheBigShow’s blog from which QueenLoonatic began her correspondence with me.
Both mine and The Queen’s posts were at opposite ends of the blogging spectrum as far as content, but she and I both shared one particular blogging trait. Our entries were long. Both of us could ramble. Some of her early comments on my blog entries would even state that she didn’t read the whole thing. I posted, and still do post entries which dovetail with my other internet endeavors, usually of a creative nature. I also blog my memoirs. Queen would post long rambling entries containing humorous images she got from around the internet, interspersed with “commentary”. We would joke about whose blog entries were longer. While I never concentrated on getting on “Top Blogs” all the time, because of my many hiatuses, the Queen seemed to be obsessed with this particular accolade. If I got a “Top Blog” entry, she loved it when her next post would become “Top Blog”. Both of us liked to knock TheTheologiansCafe down a few pegs, as he was Top Dog of Top Blogs, and remained so until he left Xanga recently.
After coming back from a hiatus, I’d find the Queen’s entries to be a staple on Top Blogs. She finally accomplished what she wanted to do from the beginning, “build up a very intelligent readership” for her Xanga blog. While it might be argued that there are degrees of intelligence, she covered all the bases. Like a lot of Xangalebrities, she could brag about a friends list numbering hundreds if not thousands of users. Lots of bloggers respected her, and read her posts religiously. She never lacked for content. She was quite witty, very opinionated, and seemed willing to share much of her life.
I should have seen some clues that all might not be completely right with this particular blogger, and that I may be setting myself up for a fall emotionally by being her friend. However, as the clues appeared, I may have just ignored them, as I also do in the real world when interacting with people. I tend to overlook faults, and concentrate on the positive aspects of humanity.
Two interesting things happened during 2011. One time I clicked her username from a comment she’d left me, and was blocked from her site. This sort of came out of the blue. I messaged her. She claimed to be ignorant of the process. We caromed back and forth, but I couldn’t “see” her site. She’d still leave me comments, but without being able to leave comments, I feet sort of “blogemasculated” and told her in a message that a block could only come from her computer. She claimed that she had been hacked. Then she “confided” to me that an old boyfriend of hers had been staying over and got jealous when he saw our messages. He had blocked me. After a while I was allowed back into her site, and things proceeded as usual.
At about the same time, a new blogger appeared in the Xangasphere. He claimed to be homeless, with sporadic access to computers. He called himself OuthouseDog (not his real username.) As with most of my internet relationships, he first visited my blog, left a comment, and asked to be my friend. We kept up correspondence, and I read touching stories of an old relationship in which he was involved. He had a daughter, who blogged on Xanga as well. During those times when I was “active” on the service, I counted both QueenLoonatic and OuthouseDog as trusted friends. Sometimes the Queen would post a popular entry which would draw ire from others in the Xangasphere. During 2011 and early 2012, the core bloggers in the “Top Blogs” arena became like warring tribes. The “cliques” or “gangs” (not used derogatorily) of blogging friends in 2008-2010 became more like real “gangs” using words instead of bullets to make their points, and the years of the “comment wars” began on the front page of Xanga. TheTheologiansCafe’s blog usually started these small skirmishes with some offhand “question” about a “topic du jour”. Bloggers like QueenLoonatic would “weigh in” with an opinion. Others who shared her views would support her. Others would disagree, sometimes in not too freindly a manner. By far, the Queen was not the only one who participated in these “wars” but she was, at the time, possibly the most popular “Top blogger” behind TheTheologiansCafe.
QueenLoonatic sometimes seemed to play both sides of the fence on some issues, although I am only surmising this, and not accusing said blogger of being anything except upfront and righteous in her opinions and viewpoints. Xanga’s top blogs page was a bubbling cauldron of controversy, and the Queen liked to stir the pot. She would make and break friendships like they were simply kindling for her fires. When I would visit her, I sometimes had to go through five or six highly opinionated entries before I could find one on which I feld some common ground on which to comment. This blogger who told me she didn’t know how to “block” or “unblock” somebody on the service was soon blocking and unblocking like crazy.
After one hiatus, I returned to find QueenLoonatic and OuthouseDog claiming they were married. I was confused at this revelation. Perhaps they only recently found each other online and got into a relationship? Seems like they’d been married for years. They had a loving relationship. Now we can be whomever we want to be on the internet. At one time, there were dozens of “Miley Cyrus” blogs on Xanga when that celebrity first became famous. I had once surmised that the Queen was an outgoing vibrant, A-plus personality like me from the way she blogged. She messaged me that she was really quite shy, and intimidated “in real life”. But the internet afforded her a “place” where she could overcome these fears. She flirted with me for years, and had even floated the possibility we would meet someday. It sort of flummoxed me that she was in a longtime relationship, her partner also blogged on Xanga, and never talked about her as a partner, and was similarly among my friends list. Could he have been the “old boyfriend” who had blocked me? Could the Queen herself have done so because of something I wrote, or some perceived emotion she received because of something she saw or some comment she read?
Who can tell. I messaged her questioning why she never told me she was married. Her answer: “You didn’t ask.”
In early 2012, another longtime Xanga friend of mine began to get popular in the “top blogs” page, and developed a following. I’d always perceived this person as a bit of a wallflower, not too social, like my roommate at the time, Joel (Cancerboy). Where Joel never used the internet, and seemed afraid of computers, GameBoy (not his real username) seemed to enjoy computing, was a bit of a geek, wrote prose and poetry, and was similarly opinionated, and his Xangexperience afforded him the opportunity to sort of come out of his shell. I think QueenLoonatic was much the same socially. I never could track a bead on OuthouseDog.
GameBoy’s confidence bloomed. He attended Xanga Meetups IRL and began to become more of an “active” member of the overall “top blogs” community. I really wasn’t that active by this time. I always declare “my time” on Xanga was when I was heavily involved in participatory blogrings, like Featured Grownups, in 2005-2007. GameBoy decided to “call out” the Queen as someone who was two faced, played groups of Xangans against each other, and who would just block anyone with whom she disagreed. In time, as with all Xangacontroversies, two distinct “camps” appeared. And the war was fought in plain sight on the front page of Xanga.
Both GameBoy and QueenLoonatic (and her husband OuthouseDog) regularly committed Xangacide, or just created new blogs alongside their existing ones, and each had a number of different similar usernames and blogs over the years. I never understood why bloggers do this. I guess I do from a sociological standpoint, but for me, blogs are our legacies, and it’s best to just have the one, on which you can trace your digital life the longer you blog. That’s why I’ve decided to pay for the privilege of blogging on Xanga, at least as long as it survives. (I still feel it’s a ghost town now. That’s why I’m writing this particular entry right now. I would NEVER have written this a year or so ago, right after QueenLoonatic disappeared for the last time, but I’m getting ahead of my story.)
For some, blogs are merely a platform on which to stage quarrels and spiteful wars. Some bloggers seem to ‘get off’ on this.
After a while, GameBoy and QueenLoonatic came as close to “beating each other up” online as I guess you can in cyberspace. As GameBoy’s confidence increased, the Queen lost some of the sheen from her crown, and she began to exhibit the classic psychiatirc traits of a paranoid schizophrenic. When I first found her “real name” buried deep in one of the profile pages of her blog, and would begin my popular comment/letters by addressing her as such, she would tell me not to do so, as she didn’t want anyone to know here real “identity.” This sounded strange coming from someone who regularly blogged photos of herself, and who mentioned the towns in which she lived. Also another blogger always addressed her by her “real name” and she thought nothing about it. I granted her wish, until such time as she would mention her own name on her blogposts. QueenLoonatic had a “selective memory” (again a similarity she shared with my ex girlfriend Pat). Reality for her was what she perceived it to be at any given time. If that reality changed drastically over the next ten minutes, so be it. If you wanted to be encircled in her orbit, you played by her rules. Even if they didn’t make sense to a sensible person.
QueenLoonatic soon became obsessed about reading her name online, and this stoked GameBoy’s ploy to “take her down.” This was possibly the low point of Xanga, in my experience here, and my story of my strangest Xanga relationship is nearly over, as is QueenLoonatic’s reign on top blogs. She committed Xangacide for the last time in mid 2012. She had a rollercoaster of a three year ride on the blogging service.
The saddest exchange I think I ever saw on Xanga or on the internet in general was a comment exchange on a pulse between GameBoy and QueenLoonatic. GameBoy found out the Queen’s personal information, and announced it on Xanga, since in her somewhat paranoid state, all she could think of in her waning days as a blogger was that everybody on the service was out to get her, and used her real name. GameBoy would just write her name, and she would tell him to stop. In a surrealistic display of over 300 comments between the two seemingly normal adults, it must have lasted for literally hours., amounting to a digital version of those old childhood taunts, where two kids disagree or otherwise keep stating “Did too” “Did not” ad infinitum.
I kept off QueenLoonatic’s blogsite. I made sure I didn’t add any fuel to their quarrel. I’ve always attempted to be reasonable in my dealings with Xangans, and have boasted that I don’t get involved in what was always called “Xanga Drama”. I never liked soap operas on TV either. However, knowing two individuals who are tumbling from one comment section to another (kind of like the end of the Mel Brooks picture “Blazing Saddles” where the cast of the movie go from one soundstage to another, disturbing the other movies being made on the lot.) can get tedious, if each expects their “friends” to side with them in the ongoing war. I refused. I cautioned each of them, as I have cautioned others when similar comment bouts end up in the comments section of my own blog entries, that after three times, I’ll just begin deleting the strings which don’t have anything to do with my post, and eventually I will block the blogger.
I never had to block QueenLoonatic. In fact, even after finding out she was married, and even when she was getting involved in Xanga drama, I was still hopefully surmising that i might visit her in the real world. I believe GameBoy still has an active blog. He really only goaded the poor girl, and wouldn’t let up calling her by her real name. She threatened to sue him, to sue Xanga, to sue anyone on whose blog her name ended up. She enlisted other friends in her efforts. I received emails from them asking me to remove comments GameBoy had left, etc. It got to be a big mess. I really feared for QueenLoonatic’s mental health. I wish her and OuthouseDog well. They both left Xanga eventually. And I’ve attempted to find out if she ever found a “home” on the internet again. Subsequent searches have proved fruitless.
A relationship with QueenLoonatic is not the kind of relationship one soon forgets. I’ll never forget her as she “was” when I first “met” her. A seemingly like minded “intelligent” person who desired exposure and friendship. She found both. But I think perhaps her skin wasn’t as thick as the skins of some of we longtime bloggers, and her fall was deliriously painful to watch. Perhaps she should have done things differently, but perhaps she lacked the social skills inherent in blogging. Who knows? I don’t think I’ll ever find out.
I’ve had dozens of strange relationships on the internet, and on Xanga in particular. This one stands out as the strangest. Here’s to you, my QueenLoonatic, wherever you are. I hope you are in a much better place, and have found peace, and aren’t as bothered by the bullying you suffered, and may have even instigated because of your “blogging style.”
(NOTE: I’ve changed the names of all bloggers mentioned except for TheTheologiansCafe. I’m leaving out the final chapter of this story, as it were, but will append it here as a sort of postscript. Right before the Queen commited Xangacide with her last remaining site, it has been said that she may have created another site. About the time she and GameBoy were really throwing the digital fisticuffs, I wrote one of my uplifting posts titled “What is Xanga: We are all Xanga” and borrowed snippets from the life of a recently deceased Xangan. I received a disparaging and frightfully negative comment (which usually never happens to me) accusing me of all sorts of terrible manipulative things. It REALLY upset me. GameBoy proposed that the comment came from QueenLoonatic in another quise. Logic still tells me it wasn’t her. I never remember showing her any ire or ill tidings. I try to be reasonable to most folks, and don’t like to burn bridges, either in real or online life. It may have been her, and if it were, she must have been laughing at me through our whole friendship, if she felt the way she did in her final comment. I made an attempt to visit the site, as I always do, to return a comment, but was blocked from the site. Sigh. MFN/ppf)