Most people are made not of the sum of their public selves — the unlocked Twitter, the well-curated Instagram, the .club domain — but rather their private selves. The group DM. The locked Twitter alt. The private email chain. The Instagram thread that started with a meme and is currently at, I think about quitting three times a day, it’s hard living here, I just don’t know if I can do New York anymore, you know?

From 2006 to 2012, I kept a LiveJournal.

You could lock your posts to your friends only or filtered to a select group. Or you could create a new, completely locked journal (the proto-Twitter alt; everyone always knew it was you).

I vastly preferred the latter, creating journals to weather different periods of my life. It’s where I learned the value of selective privacy, which, as it turns out, is otherwise known as exclusivity.

Does a group DM make a sound if you can’t reference it publicly, so others know they’ve been consciously excluded? Does a Twitter alt matter if your ex’s new girlfriend doesn’t spend at least 2% of her day worrying about what you’re saying about her on it? What value do our private selves have if we can’t tease them as part of our public selves’ brand?

Clare Mao is from Queens, NY.