Learning LiveJournal: First Timer Tips for Blogging on the Internet

“Blog” is one of pop culture’s hottest buzzwords. All the politicians, fashionistas, reporters, and pundits have them. Hollywood types have been jumping on the “blog” bandwagon as of late, and now you can follow stars such as Zach Braff and Pamela Anderson as they type through the wonder that is their daily lives. But it’s not just blogs these days. Tired of CNN and MSNBC and FOX telling you what’s cool? So over Bogger? Then skip on over to LiveJournal, where the hipsters and emo kids hang out. LiveJournal is ten times more user-friendly, ten times more secure, and about fifty times cooler than blogger ever hoped to be. But it’s not all daises and roses in LiveJournal Land. Here’s an easy user’s guide to starting and maintaining a LiveJournal.

The first step is creating an account. There are both free and paid options. If you’re new to blogging, start with a free account. It will give you access to every feature you could possibly want. Wait until you see if you both maintain the page and need the extra features before you shell out the cash.

The first step is choosing a screenname, which will also be the URL to your Livejournal. It will appear as screenname.livejournal.com for all the world. When choosing a screenname, one simple rules applies: Do NOT use your own full name. This simply invites Internet disaster. Use your pet’s name, your nickname, a variation on an email address, or the lead character of your favorite movie. Any of these will suffice, and believe me, after more than 10 million users and communities, no screenname is going to see odd. But unlike Blogger, once you pick a screenname, you’re stuck with it for the life of your LJ. Choose wisely.

Once you’ve set up your new journal, it’s time to begin creating entries. One rookie mistake of LiveJournaling is feeling that your journal is a private haven. If you don’t give out the link, no one will ever know how to find and read it. This is categorically false. Anyone anywhere can find an unlisted LiveJournal through a simple Google search or search within LJ itself. Either censor yourself, or let LJ censor you. You can do this by setting your defaults to friends-only. This allows only logged in users that you have defined as friends to read your entries. You can also post entries under the setting “Private,” which allows you and only you to read them when logged in. You can also set entries on a case by case basis. Read your entry carefully before posting, and set your privacy appropriately.

communities: LJ communities are one of the biggest untapped resources by new users. Communities are basically open forums on a given topic where a number of users can both post entries and comment on other entries. Interesting in knitting? Not only can you find an LJ knitting community with tips, pictures, patterns, and cheap places to order yarn online, but you can also probably find a local knitting community with information on local meet ups. Looking to plan a wedding on the cheap or need some ideas to make your special day fabulous? Communities like weddingplans are amazing places to meet fellow brides and trade ideas. You can shave hundreds off your pricetag simply by collaborating with brides locally and nationwide. There’s also communities for brides in a specific year, even a specific month. Search the name of your city or state under interests, and you’ll likely find a community for your own community. Here you’ll find postings of local cultural events, free stuff, and answers to questions such as “Where’s the cheapest place to get my oil changed?” and “Which salon won’t butcher my hair or charge me an arm and a leg?” Communities are great places, but beware of putting too much information out there about yourself. Don’t forget, this is still a public forum on the Internet for all the world to see.

LiveJournal friends are great. You meet someone in a community who shares your interest or whose life is really interesting, you add them to your friends page, and before you know it you’re following along with their life on a daily basis. LiveJournal will organize all your current friends entries onto one page, called, you guessed it, your “friends page.” Keep it in the back of your mind, though, that anyone you add to this page can then read YOUR entries as well. Creeped out by strangers reading your musings? Then make sure you stay friends-only and don’t friend strangers.

So now you have a LiveJournal and are ready to go to town. There are two populations that need to keep a few caveats in their minds: students and employees.

If you’re a student, there may seem nothing wrong with writing about your weekend parties and posting pictures of you cavorting with your classmates. LiveJournal can be scoped out by Google, though, so you never know when someone from another school or someone from home could stubble across your journal. And if these people can find it, who’s to say your professors or advisors can’t? Cases are on the rise across college campuses of students being held accountable for their online activity. This includes photos of underage drinking, drug use, or academic dishonesty. If you’re taking part in any of these activities, beware posting them on the Internet. It may seem like a safe little journal, but the Internet is open for all the world to see.

The same goes for employees. Again, discretion is key. A quick google search will find scores of stories of former working professionals who found themselves out of a job from either being catty about coworkers or simply releasing too much inside company information. Your best bet is to keep your work life off the Internet. You can also go friends-only if you feel the need to rant, but make sure non of your friends are also coworkers with a mean streak. It only takes one anonymous email with the link to your page and your boss will have you on the street in no time.

So now that you’ve had your tutorial and your warnings, it’s time to get blogging. LiveJournal is an amazing tool that connects you to people and information across the world. Good luck, and be careful!

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