Dear Nienke, you should have a website

Every time I embark on a journey towards a published post about why it’s good to have a website, I get lost in the reality of personal details. Everyone has different reasons for believing something. Aiming to take them all into account doesn’t help me write anything that feels worthwhile and not like a derivative1.

It feels much more relevant to focus my attention on specific people. In this case I’m focusing my attention on you, Nienke. I think you should have a personal website. Let me tell you why.

You should have a personal website not because you need to grow an audience, and turn your hobbyist writing into a profession.

You should have a personal website not because you’re an expert on some subject, and it would be cruel to deny the world your wisdom.

You should have a personal website not because you think you’re important.

You should have a personal website not because the world is in need of your highlight reel.

You should have a personal website because I think the online world is as real as the offline world. You have a presence in one, and you should have a presence in the other.

Consider your personal website an online living room of sorts. The place that displays, in a variety of ways, who you are, what you care about, and how you’re moving through the world.

You’re free to invite anyone to come in, and have them see anything you deem relevant. They can stay for three seconds and walk out the door, or dwell for a bit, opening drawers, going back in time, answering questions, questioning answers.

Imagine that there are people on the other side of the world who would want to know how you’re doing, what you’re thinking and learning. Not because you’re you, per se, but simply because you have in common the habit of sharing your experiences in an online space where you are the boss.

There is a cozy web out there, where people connect simply because they enjoy snacking on each other’s slices of life: the seemingly unimportant moments, words, images that approximate what it means to be human.

Imagine, also, what it means when I say “you are the boss”.

Think of how little you control about yourself on the Internet. The .nl website of your name is already registered, but are you its owner? I doubt it. Your company has a portrait of you on their website, and it’s beautiful, but you can’t add anything to the page it’s on, can you?

You have an updated LinkedIn page and it’s a great way for people to find you, but do you live to work or work to live? Besides, it’s LinkedIn designers who decide for you what your profile will look like. If you’d ever want to do anything other than write a post or update your experiences, you’re out of luck.

There’s an old newsletter containing an interview with you, again with that wonderful portrait. It’s probably because of your work that this is all I can find on you. It makes me sad, Nienke, it does.

You know why? I love learning about what you’re up to. And I suspect the places where you share that are social media profiles that don’t necessarily use your full name. It’s great for privacy, of course, I get it. But I don’t want to be on social media to stay in your loop.

Or rather, I want social media to be our websites. You read mine and I read yours, we write comments on our own websites and they’re posted to each other’s websites automatically.2 Twitter can fall, Instagram can crumble, LinkedIn can add an expensive subscription model, but you and I will still have our websites.

I want you to take up space on the Internet, Nienke.

I want you to enjoy doing so and perhaps even making new connections in the process. I want you to learn how to build your own website and tell me in a year that it’s actually much easier than you thought. I want you to feel empowered. And to have a now page, and to keep lists on your websites of things you love in Amsterdam and beyond.

I want you to feel that you can escape the rat race of likes, favs, and reposts. I think what you have to say is worth more than the hipness of some platform.

I want you to fall in love with personal websites so much that you write about it on your website, and tell people about it at Coffee Company.

I want to share with you the wonderful community of random people from all over the world, who are so much more curious and enthusiastic, so genuinely supportive, and so much kinder than any of the communities I’ve ever found on Big Tech platforms.

I want to read what you have to say about the world when you stop worrying what your blog should be called.

  1. See for example James' neat post on personal sites or, more broadly, the “Why” page on the IndieWeb Wiki ↩︎

  2. On the IndieWeb we call this a “webmention”↩︎

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