LJ is a tool, nothing more. A powerful tool, easy to abuse - but then so is email, a poster with a catchy slogan on a telephone pole in the center of town, a newspaper, any method of communication that divorces the words spoken from the person speaking them.
As much as LJ makes it easy to be passive-aggressive, a sloppy communicator, or an inflammatory troll, it also presents the potential for people to become that much more aware of how and why they communicate in any medium. I can't count the number of times I've been tempted to make a post on some touchy topic, realized that it would be counterproductive, and then been able to back-propagate that same principle to real-life debates. And on the rare occasions I do speak up, LJ has assisted me in refining my online communication skills, a continuation of the lessons I began learning the hard way back on Usenet, before there even was a LiveJournal. (It's really not all that different.)
The use of the term 'friend' on LJ is much reviled, and perhaps rightly so - but, with time, most people are intelligent enough to figure out that words, even loaded ones, can mean different things in different contexts. Much like the word 'total' means the sum of different things in one context, and a supposedly healthy breakfast cereal in another. One term may have been chosen to echo qualities of the other, but with familiarity comes the realization that they have very little to do with each other.
I find LiveJournal infinitely useful - it allows me to keep up with the friends I have all over this country, and for them to keep up with me. I've 'met' some fascinating people who have taught me many things and enabled me to look at things in entirely new ways. It keeps me connected to the world at large in an up-close and personal way that the mass-market face of most of the internet does not, reminding me that my little corner of the world is both very similar to and very different from every other little corner of the world. It allows me to document my adventures, realizations, experiences, and amusements, and get feedback on questions from people it would never occur to me to ask directly.
While I didn't meet my husband on LJ, I doubt we would have gotten together without it; nor would I have met my boyfriend, or my husband his girlfriend. There are authors and artists I've discovered purely thanks to LJ; career opportunities I probably would not have had without the contacts I've maintained through it. All these things are hardly the work of an evil or corrupt medium; just a very powerful tool, that requires some effort and thought to use in a way that builds relationships instead of warping or destroying them.
And with that said, I will now go back to using LJ in my preferred manner. Posting of amusing links and griping about pregnancy will resume shortly.