Soda is a digital native, part of a generation that came of age online. Born in 1989, and raised in Bloomington, Indiana, she cut her teeth blogging on Xanga, then moved to LiveJournal, racking up a cache of daily entries that chronicled her teenage life (topics included hanging out with her boyfriend and learning to drive). Many of her friends today are people she first met online; her current Brooklyn roommate, for instance, is a mutual friend she met through Xanga.
As Xanga and LiveJournal fell out of vogue in the early aughts, she turned to Tumblr in 2009, while studying photography at NYU. She wouldn’t consider her work art until later, but during this time, as her posts became more visual and less personal, the Molly Soda persona began to take shape.
She notes that today, with Instagram and Twitter—the two platforms she considers most consequential—the focus on personal branding is inevitable. “With Tumblr, you didn’t have to post any pictures of yourself, nobody had to know anything about you, people just liked your taste in things or the way that you curated a sort of mood board,” Soda recalls. “Now, it’s very much like you have to love me, my identity, and it all rides on people literally validating that.”