process & notes on building this website

envisioning my homepage as an online therapeutic space

Back in the 90s we had Geocities: how it worked was that it was split into “neighborhoods”, where they all had themes and you can pick a suitable one to create a homepage in:

image credit: Businessinsider (cool article btw)

Homepages were thought of as online homes, and one personalised their online home according to their individual taste and personality. I had one in West Hollywood on which I outed myself publicly as a young teenager. I think we have lost a lot of that with modern websites, including personal homepages – I see them more as online resumes more than an online home.

The other day I was mindlessly switching SublimeText themes, and I accidentally went from a dark theme to a light theme. It was late in the evening and the temporary switch seared my eyes in low lighting conditions. It was only then when I realised this website with its white background may cause the same searing pain for people who are using a dark theme for their devices. I was skeptical of the whole dark theme movement until that moment.

I spent the next few days working on a dark theme for this site. It automatically switches you to a dark theme using a CSS media query if it detects that you’re using a dark setting for your OS. I’ve only tested it for mac devices though, for now.

It was this episode that triggered my train of thoughts on how I want this site to feel to people and myself. At the very least, it should not cause pain that can be prevented. In that same sprint, I paid a small sum of money to tinypng (it would have been free if I didn’t keep changing my mind on the default sizes) to compress all my images here so people with low bandwidth constraints can still browse this site smoothly.

Now that some pragmatic concerns are addressed (btw, tell me if the dark theme sucks for you or if you see any bugs), I can think about the more abstract ones.

If I didn’t meet my partner, I would have been a nun. I am not into organised religions, so I would probably live like how I think a modern nun should live like. I think a lot of being a nun has nothing to do with religion but rather as a way of life.

In line with that thinking, I would like this website, my personal homepage, to be somewhat the online equivalent of a modern zen retreat:

art by @launshae

I would like this to be a space where I primarily – other people too if they want to – can retreat to, sip a cup of tea, immerse in the content or browse lightly for a bit, an online space where people can slow down and breathe. There is almost no one else here, no social signalling or noise, no sense of competition or completion, almost nothing and yet everything.

Sometimes I hop onto social media and it is just exhausting. Most people cannot quit mainstream society and by extension, social media entirely and to an extent I think we shouldn’t, because I see it as a human responsibility to try to participate in a way we can, but I do believe in order to engage meaningfully we cannot be walking around depleted, devoid of our life force. Hence we should retreat whenever we need to.

In this day and age, we don’t think of online spaces as places we can retreat to, but I think we should start. Some people don’t have the privilege of finding a physical space so online spaces are all they have. Maybe we don’t want the full-blown, always on experience of the popular social networks but yet we crave some form of connection so I hope to see the emergence of therapeutic online spaces where people can go chill a little.

I want to build this into a space where I can always retreat to. I hope it can also be a space where some of you can retreat to.

This website is my life’s work-in-progress. It is essentially an abstracted version of my life and me. It has contained so many expressions of both pain and joy, memories and forgettings, learnings and misguided beliefs. In some ways, it is more intimate than entering my physical home because it is being here that will get one closer to the depths of my psyche rather than the physical self I present.

It is a space where I can just unfold and be unapologetically me. A space where I can display almost anything (within legal boundaries) I want. This is almost impossible to accomplish in a physical space. That in itself is therapeutic.

I’ll be thinking further on how to make this feel more like my online home than a lifeless document.