The Website And Why - 02.07.00

I've had lots of different discussions over the course of the past two years (and especially six months since I re-designed) about my website, but over the course of the past two weeks or so, I've been giving even more thoughts to things. The main reason for this is that in those past two weeks, I've had several different people question my reasons for doing what I do with my site. It wasn't that they were against my site and questioning why it was even up in the first place (although I wouldn't be surprised if it was), but instead they asked the question to me of my motivations for actually putting time and effort into it. What was I gaining from it? Why did I feel the need to spend the time and money each month for doing it?

I've been asked these questions before, but nearly all the times that I had, the person had mainly just asked me and then not really paid attention to my answer, accepting whatever I gave them at face value before we moved onto some other line of discussion. Either that, or the discussion that I was having was with a person who also put as much time and money into the same activity, so all I would have to do was stumble over my words for a bit while nodding my head and most of the time they'd say it was exactly how they felt. It was the unspoken language of web geeks (kind of an ESP), but it somehow made sense.

This last week, I had a discussion with someone, however, that actually made me put things into words (as much as I could anyway). After they had first asked me the question, I did my usual squirm and nodding bit, but they persisted and it forced me into talking about things (both of which were good things). The thing about web pages these days is that most people don't give them a second thought. Because the web has pervaded our lives so much, the statement of "I have a website" simply doesn't hold as much weight as it did even 6 months ago. Worse yet (because of the abundance of free sites and rampant bad personal pages), many people simply assume that when you do say "I have a website," it's one that showcases pictures of you by your car and your pets while blinking, animated gifs and bad color combinations scream at you from every direction. I'll be the first to admit that my site isn't exactly the pinnacle of quality design, but you have to try to believe that I try.

Anyway, the person that actually asked me the question of "why do you do it?" had actually been to my site and looked around a little before they popped the question. My first response was that it was something that I enjoyed, but it sounded too fast and cheap, so I expanded on it a bit. As a medium, I think that the web is nearly the perfect one for me. It's one where I can write anything I want (although I'm never really too outlandish) and anyone in the world can see it. From looking at my stats, I know that only a miniscule percentage of the world actually sees it, but it's the theory behind it all that excites me.

Not only that, but the interaction of the web excites me. I know it sounds kind of silly, but one of the coolest things to me is when I come home from work and see that someone has written me an e-mail to tell me that they identified with one of my pieces or that they found something that they thought was interesting on my site. Hell, I even get sort of excited when I get an e-mail from someone who's telling me that I suck, knowing that something at my site incited them enough to make them take the time to knock me.

With that further explanation, I felt quite a bit better about things, but again I was hit with another great question of how I can describe myself as a shy person, yet put so much information (including pictures) on my site. This question also kind of threw me for a loop at first, but explained that the only time I am shy with people is when I've never met them before. Once there has been initial contact, I'm a person who will tell someone nearly anything they want to know. It's that initial barrier that is so hard for me to overcome. Furthermore, with my website, it inspires just that sort of communication usually. If someone reads my site and doesn't find something they want, they can leave and never come back. If, however, they find something interesting and feel so compelled that they want to know more about me, they can e-mail me. When this is done, initial contact is made and even though I don't know the person on the other end of the e-mail, they already feel like a friend because they've taken that step.

After explaining this, I was dealt yet another great question of whether I was worried that someone could read through my site and learn so much about me. They wondered if I felt vulnerable because of this. Again, I had to think for just a second, but I really feel like my website is this weird extension of myself. It's where I can be the uber-me without worrying about what people think. Of course, there is the possibility that someone could read through everything and find out lots of different things about me (and probably know as much about me as some of my friends do), but if someone went to that much of an extreme, I think that they would most likely contact me anyway at some point anyway. Not only that, but the very idea that someone could actually find out that much about me without ever meeting me face to face is kind of a thrill in itself. Sure, I don't want a stalker, but knowing that someone spent even 10 minutes at my site when they could have been at one of several million other sites out there is flattery enough.

The whole of our conversation was a good one for me to have, because it started me on the path to thinking about why I do the things I do on the web, and I kept thinking about the things we had talked about and my responses to the questions over the course of the next few days. I'm sure that if I were to sit down and formulate perfectly constructed answers to all the questions above and it would end up making a lot more sense, but that would sort of defeat the purpose of my feelings and expressions of them that were straight from the heart at the time. Besides, I'm not sure I could have come up with much of anything to top what I said anyway.