What you make is a statement, an act of emancipation. You make it to continue a 25-year-old tradition of liberation.

Olia Lialina

Cool kids around the personal web are doing manifestos, and I don’t want to duplicate other people’s perfectly adequate explanations of Why Instagram Bad (It Bad), so I thought I might talk about just some positive aspects of having your own site.

there’s nothing wrong with wearing a uniform, but do you really want to get yours from Zuckerberg?

Personal sites can look however you want them to look! Maybe you just want to neaten up your text and call it a day. Maybe you want to present something simple but with a little pixel flair. Maybe you want to feel like you’re writing on illuminated parchment. While the most complicated stuff requires a fusion of artistic and technical skill, don’t be intimidated! You don’t have to make things from scratch if that doesn’t sound fun to you. Cannibalize a Tumblr theme and call it a day.

The appearance of your site works like the clothes you wear. If you choose something over-the-top and aesthetically angled, that will communicate something about you, the site, and your intent. But if you pick something you find simple and utilitarian, that will also communicate something. I understand this may seem like an intimidating burden, but remember that if you wear e.g. the Twitter uniform or the Facebook uniform, people are subconsciously associating what you put there with Twitteriness, Facebookiness – so that’s communicating something too… not something better.

no expectations

Your site can do whatever you want. Product reviews? Media reminiscing? Assemblages of interesting stuff you read on Wikipedia? You are 100% free!

not everything needs to be time based

If you publish something in a journal or a magazine or a mailing, you’ve got to have a version of the thing that is The Version. That’s The Version that gets printed. If you spray paint something on a wall, editing it involves a lot more spray paint.

The internet shouldn’t have to have that, though! You can edit stuff after it goes up, no problem. So why do we have so much stuff that hinges on the model of publication dates? There’s a whole history there, but just think about it from your own purposes:

Let’s say you want to let people know about a new restaurant you’ve tried. You might have a “post” about it, a time-bound thing with a publication date. Or you might have a “page”, intended to reflect your evergreen thoughts about the restaurant. At first, they’d look pretty similar, probably. But if you go back to the restaurant, try some different food, and have new opinions, what do you then do? A decent number of blogs will make another post. Opinion A will stay unchanged in Post A, and Opinion B will live in Post B. Maybe they’ll add a link to Post B in Post A. Even writing this feels unnecessarily complicated! Just go to your Restaurant Page and edit it so it reflects your new thoughts! Now anyone who stumbles on it has the whole story right there.

This can be a lot better when you want to be able to accumulate little bits over time that individually wouldn’t deserve their own “posts”. This is a piece about that in the context of personal wikis, but I think it’s good to think about in terms of anything you might share on a personal site.

“but maya no one will see my updates!”

Do not underestimate how freeing this is… but if you still want an update you can let people know about, you can make those as posts! Then anyone who follows your posts using RSS will get the heads up to go check out your pages. Maybe they’ll click around a bit while they’re visiting. Isn’t that a less stressful idea than having to publish polished drafts so they’ll show up perfect in people’s social media timelines? Being able to tweak things and nudge them in directions over time has been great for me in this site.

making friends

Jonathan Borichevskiy on making friends online:

I’ve been on the internet since I was 14 (11 years ago). The first 7 years were spent a capital-L lurker: part of the vast 90% who merely scrolls without engaging beyond a like or upvote. […]
After moving to New York at 20, I began using the internet to meet people — but in the safe, walled-garden-app approach. [I] was still using the internet as a tourist — someone without a space to call their own and merely visiting the spaces of much larger, more established brands and companies.
Sometime in 2019 I stumbled on Alexey Guzey’s Why You Should Start a Blog Right Now post as well as Why (and How) You Should Join Twitter Right Now. These two posts corrected my inaccurate perceptions of blogging and twitter, so I created my Twitter account and published my first post. This was where I went from internet tourist to internet native: I now had a living room of my own that people could stumble on, get to know me, and reach out if they were interested – without being beholden to a service that could this away.

You don’t have to use your personal site to be more social – but I’ve also found that the tone of interactions I have are better. You’re not Yet Another Twitter User, you’re whatever kind of person would have put together the thing you built – people look at that differently.

okay are you sold?