A Creative Oasis

A personal website is a blank canvas; a personal Facebook page is not.

When I started thinking about web design as a creative outlet, I kept coming back to the lack of tools for expression on current social media platforms. While early social media sites featured a decent amount of customization—LiveJournal and MySpace introduced many people to programming back in the day—today's platforms benefit when everyone conforms to the same mold: a photo, a name, a bio, a link, all in the same place for every single person. I was reminded recently that Twitter used to allow the upload of custom photo backgrounds; you can't do that now. I just went to check and you can't choose a custom profile color anymore, either! The few modes of customization that remain are slowly being stripped away.

I remember being so excited when I first figured out how to change the desktop wallper on my parents' computer; I could even choose a color and a photo! This computer stuff was pretty cool. I only learned how to customize more and more after that. But instead of extending that curiosity and creativity to the web, my first foray into expressing myself online was... Facebook.

The Windows XP wallpaper Azul, depicting a small sailboat floating on clear blue water next to a small island with palm trees, surrounded by a solid blue background. I still get excited when I look at it, and making it was one of the moments I fell in love with computers.

I wanted to be a video game journalist for a little while, so I made myself a YouTube channel and a Facebook page. Making a website was the last thing on my mind. Where would I even begin?

Instead of deciding how to share my thoughts on and love of video games on my terms, I quickly learned how to force my ideas into the predefined boxes; it seemed easier that way. I downloaded a template to make YouTube banners for various screen sizes, researched Twitter's photo ratios, and watched tutorials on how to make eye-catching thumbnails. I was focusing on branding myself rather than being myself. All the time I spent learning site-specific rules could have been used to learn HTML and CSS, the primary open languages of the web!

Some creations thrive in the algorithms, but not every idea works as a Twitter account or a YouTube channel. That's where a personal website comes in. On your personal website, you'll find neither profile circles nor bio boxes, neither algorithms nor @ symbols; only a great transparent canvas you can cover any way you like:

  • Who needs a grid? Display your photos by stacking them on top of each other!
  • Make really big text; change the color! Change the font!
  • Those dots for the list items were boring, so I changed them!

If it weren't for learning to code, I never would have discovered my passion for accessibility, an aspect of the web that, often, doesn't get prioritized on mainstream sites. I love colors, too, but I can't ever use them on social media. On my own personal site, though, I get to make the rules. I get to set the text color and the background, and, hey, maybe I'll pick a custom font, too! I don't need to trim my thoughts to fit them into tweets, or change my ideas to catch people's attention. I can make a page that simply lists all (148!) of the named CSS colors, just because I want to. On a personal site, your creations are under your control, and won't disappear when someone else decides to pull the plug on a feature or just stop storing your data.

The guardrails of modern social media platforms turn them into a paint-by-numbers, where everyone's got the same page and all you can do is fill in between the lines. If you wanna color outside the lines, if you wanna draw the picture yourself, then the personal web is the place for you. My website, as with all of those in the Yesterweb, is an oasis of personal creative freedom in an increasingly restrictive mainstream web.

To me, my website is that old Windows XP background, a refreshing paradise where I can be myself.

This article was created by Amethyst