I joined OS one year ago, Dec. 11 2008. I was elated when I discovered it purely by accident, but also maddened to realize that it had existed so long by internet standards without me knowing about it. My first post was about my mother, who she used to be, and who she is now. A cri de couer that found a welcome reception. I was off to the races. I immediately became friends with several of the people who joined around the same time as me, and those friendships led to many, many more. Many of the friendships have endured, some have not. Virtual reality is much the same as "real" reality in that regard. Some people, like some situations, run their course and it's nobody's fault.
I haven't been a prolific writer at OS, I've never written more than one post in a day, and I don't blog daily or even weekly. This is the first blog post I've written in a month. When I first alighted at OS, I thought I would be writing mostly journalistic and critical work. What emerged were intensely personal explorations of my life that shocked me. In that sense, writing here has proved cathartic.
Despite the scarity of posts, I have gotten a fair share of attention, the majority of it favourable. Sometimes that surprises me. I've always had strong opinions. I am quixotic as an OS friend noted. It's a truism of my life that people either like me or loathe me; they "get" me or they don't. To quote Popeye, "I yam what I yam." Those who don't "get" or like me have made it known, but writing on a public blog means taking the brickbats along with the bouquets.
I write under the pseudonym "emma peel," one of my childhood television heroines from The Avengers. Some bloggers at OS have suggested that I am somehow "hiding" behind it, and that my opinions would be different if I blogged under my legal name. They don't know me very well. Following the crowd has never been my forte, although at times I might wish it otherwise. Using an alias online does not make me unique, or a coward.
I don't spend much time at OS any more. I was a reading and commenting fiend for a long time, and in retrospect, my writing suffered because of it. Commenting comes easily to me because it's similar to what I do for a living, and yes, it's an excuse not to write, while still writing something. I don't comment much any more, although I still read a great deal under the radar.
The zeitgeist is a major factor in why I no longer comment much. Many bloggers on a writers, artists and photographers' site as OS bills itself, have stated unequivocally that they want praise in their comment fields or nothing at all. Unless specifically (and very rarely) requested, the now-not-so-unwritten rule is that feedback and dissenting opinions are not welcome. People can post them, but they won't like the blowback. I understand what fuels that perspective, but I don't share it. It does not reflect my long-term goals as a writer, or OS member. I like giving and receiving compliments as much as anyone, but I prefer the truth, here and elsewhere. That's how I learn and improve my craft. I react to writing and ideas by how they make me feel, not by how I think I should feel, or by how someone else might want me to feel. Perhaps that is a failing on my part. Or maybe it's just OS burnout.
When I look back on my year at OS, I see it as one of the more positive experiences of my recent life. Being here got me writing again, got me thinking creatively again, and connected me to some wonderful people I would not have met otherwise. It felt like home to me for a long time. But it isn't as welcoming to me now. Although I have many friends new and old, OS feels colder, more hostile, even alien to me at times. The sheer influx of members means when I look at the feed, I don't recognize most of the names. Many members do not have avatars, which I find off putting. Several long-time members/friends have left, or rarely post or comment, and I miss them. I am aware of the irony that I am becoming one of those people.
Maybe this is normal. Maybe sites like this -- although I've never belonged to anything quite like OS before –– have a creative shelf life, and then the novelty wears off and the inevitable comings and goings and other sea changes take their toll. I have also changed in the year since I joined, and it's entirely possible that everything I've just written has no value to anyone but me. Only time will tell. I'm still going to wish myself a heartfelt happy OS anniversary that includes everyone here whose writing and lives have touched mine. What a long strange trip it's been.