Wow--fascinating and powerful essay. I’ll be thinking about Justin Hall and your reflections on him for days. This is a provocative challenge: “Your taboo secret depths are also present in millions of others. And the day-to-day mundanities of your life might feel sacred to someone else, either now or in the unimaginable future.”

Expand full comment

This makes me think about the necessary chaos at the margins of every system. Just before I read this essay, I read Henrik Karlson‘s essay about how blogs are search queries for people that are interesting. And then he mentioned how he tells his daughter that the Internet is like this alien life that we don’t know much about and we don’t know how it works, but we can wave our hands and click certain buttons, and cat videos show up or porn shows up.

And I think about how all systems need “marginal land” of wilderness in chaos, in order to keep the mainstay of the farm healthy.

And it makes me wonder where people like you and I fit in the mythical landscape of this Internet creature that we are trying to interact with. We’re trying to find an archetype, without having to think so hard about it. Justin, for example, knew where he stood and he knew it energies to draw on, in order to keep his place in the mythological landscape alive. And he knew when he was losing that because it was affecting his relationships in his normal life.

That’s what my mind was working on as I got to the section of your essay about how to balance privacy and reach. I’m less likely to graph it out and try to plot where I want to be, but I can use this is a short hand to figure out what energies this world is giving to me and how did lean more into those energies, especially if it’s where I want to go.

And yes, reading about Justin did make a dent on my psyche and make me wonder how I want to approach this whole world, so thank you for putting the story together

Expand full comment

Wow, your post-love today (🙏🥰🙏) was definitely in line with Synchronicity leading me to this piece. I so needed this! What a great read, and a wonderful rabbit hole about something I know very little about.

I was a late adopter to the internet and an even later online writer. When I first tried my fleeting hand at it around 2005 it was completely censored because it was tied to my dance name and The Brand. I eventually took it down, swearing that if I ever reposted the stories of my life and big car wreck recovery, I would truly tell it. Not weave a glitter-washed stack of crap into the facade of a Hashtag Overcomer’s Tale with a Hollywood ending.

I have to do a lot of...creative identity shielding to do this safely. For the reasons you brought up here and because of the touchy stuff I write about. Good thing I’m also a fiction writer. I’m also a fan of the pseudonym. I’ve had at least one since I was 19 and became a belly dancer, and I have no interest in ever giving that up.

Thank you for laying this stuff out so clearly. Range, depth, and logging. In my old blog that I’ve been gradually migrating here, the newcomer overwhelm was exactly as you described. I called it my Pollock splatter painting because nobody used the Categories and intricate links system as I designed it--and yes!!! The end of each post had Choose Your Adventure links!!! 🤣🤣🤣

Being here, I’ve separated them into 3 publications, one Branded and SFW, the other two NSFW, with one of those for fantasy fiction, because even using the Sections couldn’t give me the organization I need to really do what I long to do. I’d need drop-down menus for my drop-downs. 🤪 I tend to use Notes for the daily tidbit logging aspect.

Because I am not niched. I am all over the place with all my topics of passion creating an interconnected web--multipotentialite in the vein of Emilie Wapnik--and it’s really important to me to be as exposed and real as possible (preferably without exposing others too terribly, giving them a way to say, “Nope! That wasn’t me. I’m not ‘John.’ This story over here about ‘Bob’ was me.”) I also go to great length to make myself not black-mailable by being open about my secrets & taboos, and to throw myself under the bus a lot. The truthful depth of the story and my experience in it is paramount to me. Especially in the days of the Fakebook Face. I am adamant that the world needs more of this. I was in college when he was, and we are kids of the Pump Up the Volume era. (You know, that movie you can’t stream or rent on Prime--but it’s on YouTube in full.) 😈

I’m so excited about this roadmap rabbit hole you’ve shared, and some of the side detours! Because as you mentioned, I don’t often see people doing that. It’s nice to know that at one point that was the dream. It’s gotten derailed, but that just means a machete is necessary for the overgrowth. Or to sneak around in the jungle quietly, hunting for those of like mind.

Have you had luck finding like minds with the Plexus? Thank you again for all your hard work doing this Post of a Gazillion Links. From one depth-range-loggy-spewer to another. Cheers!

Expand full comment

Michael, this is brilliant... although I was online relatively early, I don't remember coming across Justin's site. I do remember similar personal sites from that era, full of links to all kinds of fascinating things, from role-playing games to underground music and mysticism. That early net was quite an influence on my developing psyche!

This is the best thing I've read in quite a while, and the quality of your writing here is on par with something you'd find in The Atlantic or The New Yorker. Kudos!

Expand full comment

...so inspiring...what an awesome read Michael -- had never heard about this guy but what an icon of self expression...good reminder to live life free and see what happens...there can be normal endings for any of us weirdos...

Expand full comment

This essay asks so many interesting questions. I think it's really curious how he was this huge, outsized figure of the early internet but he's now like a living historical figure, not a modern celebrity. You know? It does validate his thesis somewhat. He talks about how important this kind of thing is in the idea of building a personal legacy, whereas we always think about posting on the internet as a means of building fame. And so what's odd is that he was one of the first, most prolific posters and was famous for a time, but the fame didn't last, and now the legacy has. His story seems like upside-down versions of a lot of the lessons that we normally draw from the social media-dominated age of the internet.

Expand full comment

I’ve run smack into my limits wall multiple times. Like the 3 year wall on my car wreck story because I couldn’t figure out how to not throw certain people under the bus and “never wrong a writer, they should have treated you better” only goes so far when you’re talking about already vindictive and violent people. I know a bunch of people got frustrated when I shifted gears from TBI & injury recovery but it was imperative I figure out how to protect the not-so-innocent as the way to protect myself. Besides, naming names was never the point for me. It’s the issues and the stories that are important.

Now you have me curious of your implications. 🤔 Email me if you want to talk shop.

See, I loved your tiers!! It’s one of the reasons why this post is bookmarked because I’m trying to figure this out too. Privacy is absolutely another reason for them. Alas. With my B&B stack, the very readers I am exposing my nekkid self for, there are main demographics for whom even $5 a month is routinely beyond. Namely TBI & disability land. And for anybody being held financially hostage in an abuse situation. And those who have just escaped one. And...and... giving all of those really touchy topics for free has been my Pay It Forward measure.

But I desperately need an income. But writers should be paid. But privacy. But plagiarizers stealing my stuff. But plagiarizers using Bot to steal my stuff even faster. But...Bot. 😳 Dude, I hadn’t even thought of that one! Making a mini-me-bot if I put it all out there. My foil hat points and says, “Yes! That’s totally something Bot would do!” (Bot being Terminator’s great-great-great grandma, who was only born 5.2 months earlier because Bot doesn’t take 9 months to give birth to its next gen.)

(Looks anxiously over my cyber-shoulder, knowing Bot’s Brother is watching. Chews cyber-lip.)

It really has become a conundrum, and Bot changes many games. Thanks so much for this discussion! I think I don’t get how to drive Plexus yet. But I’m having fun plinking around and saying, “Huh. What’s this do?” Very excited about where it could go!! After 50 years of feeling like an alien speaking “meep meep mop bop” I’m curious if I would even care if it wound up being advanced Bot agents with whom I connect most... now there’s a Bladerunner rabbit hole of musing. 🤔🧐🤖

Expand full comment

“Imagine if all your relatives had web pages, all their relatives, even their dead relatives, telling stories from before you were born.”

That you could only access by the proper DNA strand, and stayed locked down and encrypted with a deadman switch triggered by the reading of your Will

Expand full comment