August 10th, 2011
There are a few of you who know exactly what this blog is about just by the title. This means you are probably female, somewhere between 30-45ish years old and grew up dreaming that you could be could be a wildly successful professional while also juggling your fantastically happy personal life with your handsome and successful boyfriend/husband or beautiful and successful girlfriend/wife while also looking eternally twenty-eight years old and never leaving the house in jeans that made you look anything short of Hawt with a capital H.
This is what Jane Pratt did for me.
Jane Who? That’s what the rest of you are asking. Jane Pratt, founder of Sassy Magazine and later Jane Magazine had an oddly galvanizing effect on young women of my particular generation. Back in 2006, Jane Magazine shut down for good and with it, the core of the online community that spawned from it.
What did people do before Facebook? Before Myspace? Well, if you were socially competent, you probably went out with your friends live and in person. If you were me, you joined message boards, which for you kids out there, were like a pre-cursor to Facebook. Same concept, more anonymity. You created a handle that wasn’t attached to any bio information at all, and posted away.
The Jane Magazine message boards were an eclectic melting pot of teenagers and twenty-somethings. The magazine itself was akin to watching reality television. Jane Pratt created the literary equivalent of spending the afternoon watching the flipping back and forth between the Bio Channel and TLC.
The message boards were a different animal altogether. The original Jane Magazine message board was pretty innocuous, it attempted to focus on the magazine topics. However, just the way you see people gripe about how Facebook is trying to censor our speech by sending out warnings for abusive posts, it got ugly fast. If someone’s comment wasn’t posted, or if it was later taken down, people cried foul. They raged against the message board moderators, demanding justice. It doesn’t work for Facebook, and it didn’t work on Jane back in the day.
The upside to the message board society was that it was truly anonymous. If I wanted to claim that I was a 6’4 pro-wrestler from Queens, NY who enjoyed cock fighting and went by the handle ‘Numbchucks’, there was no one to prove me wrong. You didn’t ‘friend’ anyone per say, you just created the person you wanted to be.
I didn’t go by Numbchucks, although I’m tempted to do so now.
Eventually the Jane Magazine boards birthed a bunch of ill-mannered children. Groups of message board junkies like myself, got together and decided we weren’t going to stand being controlled by The Man anymore, we were going to form our own community, where free speech would reign.
Incidentally, I have never seen a faster road to anarchy than to declare that the cornerstone of your organization is ‘free speech.’ Free speech usually means that people will feel free to say any damn thing that pops into their head. The truth is that we don’t really want to know all the crazy in other people’s heads. Instead of ‘free speech’, we should be fighting for ‘sane speech.’ That might actually get us somewhere….but I digress….
The offshoot that I joined was titled ‘AntiJane.’ Yep, we were going to do it our way, no Jane Magazine moderators to censor our ideas! We were going to live our Internet lives in a world where individuality and freedom of expression were key.
It’s a nice idea, right?
There were other revolutionary groups that grew from the original Jane Magazine message board; The Jane Book Club was another. Like AntiJane, there was tight security to get in. There was rampant paranoia that spies from Jane Magazine proper were going to try to and infiltrate the perimeters of our free speech utopia. There was also talk of the dreaded spam-bots. The computer created spam machines that join message boards with the sole purpose of shilling their crap.
Inside our little protected AntiJane cave, we hid and gossiped, and eventually Lord of the Flies style, began to eat our own. Message boards are like an online equivalent of Mean Girls. We formed little online cliques, we ostracized the ones who were considered less cool than others. Every once in a while, you got a little glimpse into someone’s real life. It was startling to realize that the person who had just called you a hoe-sucking moron was, in their waking life, a mild-mannered receptionist in an optometrist’s office, or an elementary school teacher, the guy who answers the phone when you have tech problems with your Internet server.
It was like a really geeky version of Fight Club.
I left the community before they started handing out the Kool-aid. I assume it still exists, you might even be able to find it, just don’t tell them that Numbchucks sent you.
My point is this: Jane Magazine is back, in online form. You can find it here:
You can also like xojane on Facebook, here:
There’s probably a message board you can join…at your own risk.
I’m curious to see what effect the new Jane Magazine will have. I’m curious to see if the same fanaticism that grew from the original will be kicked back up, or if the new generation of Internet savvy users will pass it by.
And remember – first rule of Jane Magazine is that you don’t talk about Jane Magazine.