Monday, January 9, 2012

Why a Blog is not a Diary

Or, more specifically, I am writing about why my blog is not a diary. Now, I well know that when blogs originated in the 1990's, back when they were still called web logs, they commonly were described as personal web pages that either served as a personal diary or as a repository to store (and comment about) links and information found on the Internet. Back then at the newborn baby stage of the social media revolution, people valued the utility of having a paperless personal writing and filing space, and few people envisioned the development of the interconnected social web in which we are now enmeshed, where we not only find and consume information but also write to/sing to/share images with an audience across the globe, and mash-ups are the new black. Back in those early days, it seemed perfectly safe to write anything online, as people just didn't imagine: a) having an audience actually read their stuff, and b) the permanence of postings in such an ephemeral-seeming medium.

So that takes us back to my original implied question, and the answer is quite simple. My blog is not a diary because what I'd write in a diary would be the kind of stuff that I would not want anyone whom I know to read. (I don't really care about strangers; they can read whatever.) Some people who read my blog or who might do so in the future are people I know or might come to know someday. Therefore, I take care not to write the the whining, self-pitying, despairing, or angry kinds of things that that I wouldn't normally say to my broad circle of friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances, but that I would typically put in a private diary.

For me, a diary is a place to work through difficult things: emotions, relationships, important decisions, and self-critiques. There's quite a bit of misery in my diary (an old fashioned paper and pen type), and not many joys, pithy observations, or intellectual analyses. I save those latter kinds of writing or discussion to share with people, for venues that potentially have an audience, whether one individual, a set of colleagues, or potentially anyone in the world. I hope for and value feedback and discourse relating to those ideas. But I save the ugly stuff for myself alone, in my diary.

Probably I'm a bit old-fashioned in cordoning off a private writing space like that. After all, this is the age of reality TV, and of doing whatever is necessary to get as many blog hits as possible, even if it involves acting out or exhibitionism. Although it may have been said that every person has a book in them, in this age it seems more accurate to say every person's story is a soap opera open to the world.

I'd love to hear what you think about boundaries of public versus private material in online writing. Do you have personal boundaries around what you write online? Why, and what are they?

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