the library of alexandra


Embracing the Small Web for Connection

i might do things the hard way, according to some folks. on my personal website:

i didn't really set out to do this initially, but it turns out i'm using the practice of coding and creating webpages to meditate, be more intentional with my actions, and feel like i'm putting effort into sharing with others who i am, even if i'm not racking up likes, comments, or pageviews.

and, by the way, my way is not the best way! your mileage may vary, and it should, because that's the beauty of this hobby—folks choosing their own paths, coming to their own conclusions, finding what works for them specifically. no gatekeeping!

i like "the small way;" it fosters my need and desire to contribute and grow the personal web. i want more people to understand that interacting with other websites doesn't have to be based on comments or reactions or likes. i like showing folks how to trade pixels with one another, how web cliques work. your website can be a slice of your personality, what you do, what you value about yourself and life in general. you don't even have to share your opinions if you don't want to; talk about your day, where you went, what you've noticed lately. what's a topic you've been reading a lot about? how do you push yourself out of your comfort zone? what happens when you do?

i want to read it; i want to experience it; i want you to show me through code.

recently, someone shared the subreddit r/benignexistence with me. i see parts of the small web peeking out of social media in moments like these. there is a desire for humans to want to see how each other lives: the true lives of us, not the shiny, truth-omitted ones that exist on social media. to me, that subreddit is reaching out to grasp at the parts of humanity that are missing from social media these days.

it's within us—we have a deep desire to understand the world around us:

Yet what we get from looking at other people’s stuff – an act, says [Anne] Chappell, that is often unconscious on our parts – isn’t a “morbid fascination.” Rather, it is a more active exchange, an effort to make sense of the world around us. Chappell mentions the historical diaries of people like Anne Frank, saying they’re more than one person’s thoughts – they tell us about both the individual life and how society functioned around them.

learning from other people, even in the things they feel are mundane, tells us so much about the world around us and how people really think, how they feel, their motivations, their relatability—the real kind, not the commodified form in social media influencing. there's so much online that thrives on extreme emotions like outrage; it's a fundamental part of the sharing and attention economy. i continually find myself being inspired and having my soul's cup filled from being able to slow down, appreciate others' hard work into the websites they're creating, and see their lives through the way they arrange their pages or write their blog.

whenever i feel myself being pulled again by the dopamine receptors in my brain, i take a step back and become much more intentional with my time, efforts, and my energy. i ask myself, "what am i getting out of this, truly? is this actually the path i want to be on? how does this actually affect my life?" that helps me reset and feel motivated to keep going in the way that i know makes me feel joy in my everyday life.

it's not particularly easy to do this, hence why i don't call this "the easy way." in my view, the easy way is to lean into the manipulations around you, yearning and vying for your attention at every turn. it's falling into the habit of allowing entities that are not looking out for you, no matter how small, to control your behavior through things like doomscrolling and checking notifications. i am not available on the internet 24/7, and i don't want to be. i definitely have been, and i have always felt burnt out, depleted, and depressed afterward.

it is a deep deprogramming that must be done, and it even happens with web-builders who are making their own websites and participating in the personal web. because i like to keep up with folks new to this hobby, it is not uncommon to see webgardeners no longer interested in the hobby after consuming themselves with it. instead of thinking your life has to become this hobby, think of how building a website complements your life. how does building a website give you an opportunity to show the things in your life that do matter, the parts of you that you want to share? to me, building a website is a means to an end—it is a way to express ourselves, to make it accessible and long-lasting across time and space; it is not the end itself.

social media has programmed us to believe our digital presences require frequent updating, glossy completed projects, apologies when you spend any time away from it; this just isn't necessary in the personal web. you dictate your own time schedule. you alone control how much time, effort, and at what pace you learn and build.

opting out of that way of thinking is difficult; it has been perfected by companies to explicitly target how your brain works. what i describe might be considered "the hard way," but i think i prefer the small way, the slow way. i'm okay with living slower and being more intentional, even with my behavior on the web, even within building websites for fun. it's OK to miss out on what's happening elsewhere if it doesn't really affect me. it allows me to see more of what this life has to offer and what means most to me. i get to read so much more of others' perspectives and learn how other people live by exploring the personal web. i grow empathy, i gain perspective, i flesh out my personal beliefs, i reprogram my brain so i can live happier, healthier, and with a better relationship with the world around me.

when i re-read that to myself, it doesn't really feel so small anymore.