Ben Werdmuller takes the opportunity of Tracy Durnell’s blogging anniversary to make some remarks about identity which, it won’t surprise readers here to learn, are of interest to me.
On the other hand, I know people who have posted to the same domain for almost as long as they’ve been online. I don’t know if I can match that sort of dedication – or a commitment to even having a continuous identity for all that time. Am I the same person I was 20+ years ago? A little bit yes, but mostly not really. The idea of joining up my life online on a long-term basis is actually quite daunting.
I can’t speak to whether or not I’ve addressed this in earlier blogging incarnations, but at least as early as 2019, I’d been discussing my lack of any “stable, constant sense of self and identity”—in that case riffing off an article on derailment.
At any rate, by the article and study above, my entire life appears to be one of routine “derailment”, per se, except in that I don’t feel the discomfort they speak of, over the disconnect between the who I was and the who I am. I’m not sure it ever occurred to me to think of myself as anything other than a succession of selves.
I’ve even read some past blogging and very specifically noted such a sense of disconnect.
I don’t really recognize that person, that me who wrote that. I can’t conjure an internal sense of who he was, or what he was doing when he was thinking these things, or what his life was like, or how he ended up on a blog with a number of the web thinkers of the day.
Further, I’ve also specifically wondered whether or not the aphantasia and SDAM might be implicated in this routine derailment that is my lifelong identity, a thread I picked up again in a post that also responds to the question of whether or not identity, per se, even matters, and how it relates to the idea of self.
“What matters is not that I have the same or similar characteristics over time,” he writes. “Rather what matters is that my new self was caused by my old self.” Identity, in other words, is malleable and changeable, whereas self is a matter of causation and intention.
This entire thread has fascinated me more and more ever since I began the blog restoration project.
Events like Tracy’s blogiversary can’t help but drive me back into it, and in fact I linked a post of mine the other day when mentioning that anniversary, one which is titled for Winne Lim’s exhortation to “normalize being whole persons”. There, I’d wondered what it will be like to have “those other versions of me […] together as a continuous whole”.
(It came to mind, too, when Colin mentioned to me—also here—that he’d thought I’d gone dark because I hadn’t appeared in his RSS reader since ages. Clearly I very much had not, but the issue was that since I’d moved from Weblog.LOL back to self-hosted WordPress, I’d not bothered to set up any redirects for the RSS feeds. Derailment of a different sort, I suppose.)
At any rate, Ben also marvels a bit at the fact that any blogger actually can figure out their anniversaries at all.
I’m a little jealous that she can pinpoint an anniversary date. For me, it depends on how you judge: I had a hand-rolled blog of sorts when I went to university in 1998, but was it really a blog? I definitely had a public Livejournal in 2001, but was that a blog? How about blog I used to keep on Elgg dot net (now a domain squatter, may it rest in peace)? My old domain, benwerd.com, dates back to 2006, and my current one, werd.io, only goes back to 2013. It’s a bit of a messy history, with stops and false starts.
My very hazy and not entirely reliable memory suggests that I had something prior to the March 2000 posts which form the earliest posts here but for the life of me I can’t recall what it possibly could have been. It certainly would have been done by hand, but just as certainly, if it even existed at all, it’s long lost.
It’s also true that none of my platform microblogging will be part of this restoration. None of my Twitter, or Mastodon, or Bluesky. Nor the “status updates” that appear on my homepage that are driven by Status.LOL. Any microblogging I did on my own blogs, however, will be included. There’s a lot of that, in fact, pre-Twitter.
(For a time this year, I’d been browsing my Twitter archive for other reasons, and actually found it fascinating to find signs of my then-undiagnosed autism spectrum and sensory processing disorders, among other things. I’ve thought about taking another deep dive, but it’s exhausting work as I tended to tweet everything.)
For all of how much of my blogging I’ve in fact been able to locate either through archives I downloaded or thanks to the Wayback Machine, even here I will not be an entirely complete succession of mes.
In one of my posts linked above, I ended by wondering, “In the end, when much of the less-than-ephemeral things I’ve said online is back online, just how many of me will there be?”
How alike will be they be? How different? What gaps will surface and what might my memory offer me by way of explanation for them? Given that I didn’t legally change my name until midlife, will it even be “Bixes all the way down”, or is someone else lurking down there, at the bottom?