If you want to make your own website, I recommend Jekyll. I use a highly-customized template that I made myself and deploy the site on on Netlify. I’m a big fan of static site generators. Static site generators are programs that help you generate static website, i.e., websites that don’t run any code in the browser but just render an HTML template. If you’re not familiar with HTML, it is the language that the web is based on, and you can find a quick introduction here. There’s a bit of a learning curve to deploying a Jekyll site, but if you use a template you won’t really have to write anything except Markdown (if you’ve ever written a Reddit comment, it’s the same language). The Jekyll documentation is very extensive, and you can get pretty far with very limited programming experience.

I based my CSS template (the style of the website) on this blog post. This site is very minimal, but there are some pretty slick templates available to customize your Jekyll site.

I use Namecheap as my domain registrar (the service I buy alexwennerberg.com through). If you have a common name, you may not be able to get .com, but there have been a lot of top-level domains added recently (the .com/.org part of the domain name). It’s relatively simple to set up your site with a domain name. Netlify makes this super easy, as do sites like GitHub Pages.

Git is a version control system that will help you manage the text and code of your website. You don’t need to learn too much of it, just enough to make changes to your page and deploy them. I use GitHub to host my git repository, and have it linked to Netlify so that any change to my code gets deployed to the internet.

This is a high-level overview of the technology I use, but you can find more detailed tutorials on using Jekyll online, including the official Jekyll Docs. It may be a challenge if you’ve never done any development before, but it could be fun! Making your own website gives you a ton of power over your design and layout, and tools like Jekyll make it relatively easy.

Creating your own website is a great way to have an online presence that isn’t controlled by someone lelse. Social media companies may become defunct, use your data in unethical ways, and censor or suppress certain kinds of content. There’s increasing concern about the effect social media has on mental health. If you make your own website, your content is controlled and managed by you, and you can operate it in a manner consistent with your ethical principles.

My relationship with social media is, as with yours probably, nuanced. I’ve developed many long-lasting friendships through social media, and use it to keep in touch with people I otherwise wouldn’t be able to. I’ve been exposed to ideas and media that have shaped me as a person, in many regards in a positive way.

However, I’ve also wasted a lot of time endlessly refreshing feeds. I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable simply being alone with my thoughts, and experiencing something without sharing it. In a perverse way, posting about something online sometimes feels more real than actually experiencing it. I feel often like my news feed is a barrage of anger and pain that can make me feel numb and depressed without even noticing. The times where I’ve taken week-long breaks from social media have been far more calm, introspective and happy.

I deleted my Facebook account over a year ago and don’t miss it, however, I do think that I would miss Instagram and Twitter if I deleted them, so I’m not necessarily a hardliner on being anti-social media. While I would love to live in a world where I can convince my friends to communicate through personal blogs and RSS feeds, that world probably isn’t coming anytime soon, and Twitter and Instagram give me a platform to easily share things I’m doing and am passionate about with a large group of (at least hopefully sometimes) interested people.

In an increasingly-privatized internet, I think it’s important for online spaces to exist free from a profit motive. Making and hosting your blog helps you build that space for yourself. I make no money off of people viewing this blog. Web hosting is cheap enough that I can do this for basically free. It’s never been easier to make your own website from scratch. I hope this post inspired you to get started! Feel free to email me at alex@alexwennerberg.com if you have any questions.

Alex