No longer thought of as unattainable, private, or personal, journals and diaries are now available all over the world with just a click of a mouse. From Xanga to Live Journal to MySpace, these online journals – also known as blogs – allow users to flood Internet space with their candid collection of stories and rambling incoherencies. The premise of an online journal is for users to frequently write interesting stories about themselves so that friends, family or random web surfers are given the opportunity to learn more about their daily endeavors. Users can customize the backgrounds to their journals and add music and pictures to give a better impression of their current mood. But has this networking phenomenon defied the old-fashioned, traditional diary?
“I grew up writing in my diary knowing that what I wrote would always be private,” said sophomore Kelli Brown. “I think online journals are stupid. Why would you want to tell your stories for the entire world to see? Diaries used to be really special for people. Now they are exploited.” Online journals can be used for other purposes. A user can write their own poetry or lyrics, or give their commentary on a variety of subjects. Perhaps one of the biggest concerns about these journals, though, are the stories being told about other people. “I had a friend in high school who almost got into a fist fight with a girl she was writing about,” said Brown. “Most of it was nonsense, but thatʼs the type of impact those journals can have. You have to be careful when you write in those things because you might tick somebody off.”
Although most journal entries may seem utterly pointless, there are some benefits. In order for an online journal to work, users have to maintain a strong commitment to update almost every day. The process includes logging into the journal Web site, checking for comments from other people, and then replying to what those people had to say. The goal is to get as many Web site hits as possible. In essence, an online journal is just another platform for people to communicate.
“Journals give other people insight into your life, and I think thatʼs pretty fun,” said junior Jessie Mullen. “I think in some ways itʼs just like having a profile for your [online] screen name. I know some of the things people write about are quite boring, but youʼre basically just letting people know who you are. If you stick with it, they can be really fun. You can communicate with your friends, and even make some new [friends].” Online journals may be just an extension of Instant Messenger or e-mail, but despite its popularity, most people still havenʼt a clue of what it means to blog.
A recent CNN/Gallup poll revealed that nearly three-quarters of the American people use the Internet, but only one in four are “somewhat familiar” with blogs. Furthermore, the poll shows an age difference, revealing 21 percent of those in the 18 to 20 demographic frequent web blogs daily, compared to seven percent of those 65 or older.
While many young people are involved in blogging purely for the entertainment it provides, many activist groups have included their own journals. Internet users can read up on and reply to thousands of different journal entries ranging from human rights to drug policies. “You can learn a lot just by reading these journals. The key is to find whatʼs most interesting,” said Mullen.
If there is a problem with online journals, it is that they are open to absolutely anyone with access to a computer. Many young people might reveal too much about themselves – some even include their real name and home phone number.
“Itʼs the same issue with chat rooms and instant messaging. You donʼt know who you are talking to,” said Brown. “I think kids especially can easily be taken advantage of over the Internet by stalkers or unknown people. You have to be careful to not give out all of your information.” Most online journal hosts offer free basic service. However, Xanga and MyOwnJournal require all users to be at least 13 years of age.
Long gone are the days when older sisters hid their precious diaries from their determined younger male siblings. With the rampant rise of blogs in the online community, privacy is no longer an issue.