Whenever someone asks me about it at a real-life gathering, I tend to explain LJ in real-life-emphasizing terms: 1) There are more than 700,000 users, putting themselves out there. 2) I quickly find people with similar interests & other commonalities -- and interesting uncommonalities! 3) Nuanced social meanings are evolving in this world. 4) Writing is low-noise, at least when you're always choosing what to read.
I tend to say things like, "I would have to go to 20,000 coffeehouses to sift & meet this many people."
On the other hand. How much of LJ addiction does all that really explain?
There's a darker side to this, and I undeniably feel it too.
It's not all about selective closeness. It's also about selective distance.
If you met all your LJ friends at a real-life gathering, structured however you like, would that feed the addiction? I think not. For starters, you'd want to go write about the gathering! What would be missing at even your ideal gathering? What is there to our affairs with words on screens that would melt in the bright hot light of mere real-life encounters?
Do you see what I'm saying? Even if you were already physical-space friends with everyone you'll meet here in the next 3 years, there's a kind of social engagement that just wouldn't happen for you unless you still did something like LJ as a medium. What is this kind?
I suspect it has something to do with mystery (who else might be watching?), a lot to do with a lack of specific pressing expectations (if i don't feel like talking today, i just won't!), a tiny bit to do with posterity (oh yes i'll have this later too!), something to do with the comforts of some ambiguities, and... (see, no one will demand that i finish this sentence!)
I do crave to hear your introspections on all this. In what ways is LJ about the people & normal-world-understandable possibilities, and it what ways is it really about the medium, the technologies, satisfying more directly in ways that non-internet-people have great trouble understanding?