February 2023 is a weird time to write about the now Russian-government-controlled LiveJournal but suffice to say that I spent a great deal of my early 20s socializing on LJ, it was a very important part of the 00s to me.
In this post I’m going to discuss LJ’s “friends” features and how we can make Twitter a little more friendly by emulating LiveJournal circa 2001.
LiveJournal’s friends lists were implemented in a very specific way that I’ve never really see duplicated anywhere else in any social network ever since.
Here’s how friends worked on LJ:
LiveJournal.com basically had two views: your own journal (think of this as the “profile” section on twitter.com) and your “friend feed.” You could browse to another journal (or community) and read its posts in reverse chronological order if you wanted to, but generally you’d spend most of your time on LiveJournal use browsing your friend feed.
The friend feed was populated by reverse chronological posts of all the people (and communities) you followed. Basically twitter.com before it was enshitifed.
Now here’s the killer feature. When you published a post to your journal, you had three visibility levels: public, private (only you could see your own private posts, I think some people treated their LJ as a traditional journal) and finally “friends-only.”
The friends-only posts were semi-private, only logged-in users (not communities) on your friends list could view your “friends-only” posts, they’d show up in their friends feed alongside all the other public or friends-only posts from their friends. [Technically, it didn’t matter if you were mutual friends – as long as you’d friended someone they would see your semi-private posts – but most of the time you would be.]
These friends-only post enabled a really cool asynchronous interaction with your friend groups that I haven’t really seen on any other social network. Also, LiveJournal posts had a robust commenting system enabling your mutual friends to interact with each other in comments on your LJ. [IIRC comments also had visibility levels such that not everybody reading could necessarily see all the comments.]
That’s it, that’s the killer feature right there. Friends Lists.
Enter Twitter Circles
Twitter circles are essentially the “friends-only” visibility mode for your tweets. They enable you to post semi-private tweets only visible to the accounts you’ve selected (“friended” in LiveJournal parlance).
The only thing that’s missing in order to create the full-cirlce LiveJournal-esque experience is the friend feed.
Luckily, you can create it!
I created a private Twitter list (called “circled”) and added all of the accounts that are members of my Twitter circle. I’ve also pinned this list which causes it to appear as a tab next to “for you” and “following.”
This way I’ll have a section of twitter does a decent job of acting as a friend feed. A quiet little curated corner of Twitter. TBH it’s one of the things keeping me locked in to Twitter.
As an added bonus, Twitter seems to be resisting enshitifying the lists feature. It seems to be non-algorithmic most of the time.
The main downside is having to manually sync my “circled” list with my twitter circles members. But I haven’t found myself adjusting my circles often so it’s not really a major hassle.
If you’re frustrated with the way that Twitter is right now, I’d strongly suggest trying out circles + lists.
I still remember an email I sent to the creator of LiveJournal. I reached out to him about it on twitter a couple of years ago and he actually replied. Like I said in that previous post Twitter is punk rock.
LiveJournal “communities” were also really cool and innovative, but that’s a topic for a future post.