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the online diary: conducive to stalking

spleenfiend's picture

Laurie McNeill's article "The Diary on the Internet" was published in 2003, meaning all the examples cited were from 2002 and sooner.  Many of them were even from the nineties!  I did not become acquainted with internet culture until I was nine, in 2001 (when I actually had a website on Digimon), and of course, I was nine and did not frequent any serious parts of the internet.

My own experience with blogs is that popular blogs are either about specific topics like books or television, or they are written by people who are already famous.  Many, many personal blogs exist (such as on LiveJournal), but these are usually only read by the blogger's friends.  Any personal blogs that have become famous are vastly outnumbered by personal blogs that are read by friends only, since anyone can make a blog.

I imagine that in the nineties, when blogs were less common and the internet itself was less interactive, people were amazed to see someone documenting his or her life for everyone to read.  I am still sometimes amazed when I stumble upon an interesting personal blog because I love knowing that everything I'm reading is true.  Many people on "diary" websites don't make their blogs private, perhaps because they don't expect strangers to care, but they still write very personal things.  I love to learn about humans, but of course most novels are fictional, and autobiographies are unreliable.  A blog or online diary does have a certain careless honesty about it; the writers aren't usually writing for a big audience on purpose, and they are not trying to look "good."  Plenty are filled with self-loathing.

That brings me to another point: what people put on the internet is astounding.  I often Google email addresses, screen names, or usernames in hopes of finding blog entries written by people who are of interest to me.  I usually find Xangas or Livejournals that are sometimes several years old---embarrassing, I know, but that's the beauty of the internet.  It is very easy to create an internet persona: people describe themselves how they see themselves and write entries where they reveal their views.  In real life, I might not see the same thing a blogger describes in his or her "bio."  Online diaries are like fiction books with unreliable narrators, only better.  If you know the person, you can sometimes filter our opinions or false perceptions.

And that said, my gratuitous use of Google seems intrusive even to me.  But the internet is an all-encompassing, everlasting archive where many people have documented their lives, sometimes unintentionally (because not everyone is setting out to write an interesting blog, but a few entries and profile descriptions here and there over the years can reveal a lot).  My documents are also scattered all over the internet if one knows how to find them.  Even the site (including a blog) that I made when I was nine years old can be found using the Way Back Machine, which archives just about everything ever posted on the internet, even if it has been deleted.

I prefer truly anonymous posting, though I indulge in many "profile" sites.  Creating an internet persona fuels a certain kind of narcissism (think about myspace).  But I can't learn as much from people who post without revealing any personal information.  Still, I do wonder about the shame people sometimes lack simply because they put tons of information on the internet so willingly, perhaps without always realizing it will come back to haunt them. 

Along with the increased interactivity of the internet, people have become less cautious.  It is more common to find someone's pictures and videos (especially on Facebook) whereas about ten years ago, people were more afraid to post so many pictures.

But like I said, personal blogs are fascinating, and I'd love for people to continue not being very careful.  Topic-specific blogs are great too, since I like knowing how others react to the same entertainment.  Essentially, I love the internet and am glad it has expanded so much since the nineties.  I love having so much intimate information about complete strangers at my fingertips.


Jessica Watkins's picture

Something worth writing for

     I agree that the internet is a beautiful thing, that its vast assortment of information is nothing short of incredible.  But I see online diaries as something very intrusive.  The intentions of those who paint a picture of their private lives for all to see are, at least, questionable.  And if you're going to put all of your personal information up online, if you're going to take the time to turn on your computer, think about what you're going to write, and click that "submit" button, why write under a false name?  Anonymity serves to cover up the identity of whoever is posting, but it takes whatever ideas that person had and engulfs them until they're lost in the black hole that is the internet.  If your ideas don't belong to a name, they belong to a machine--and nothing as personal as a diary should ever belong to something as mechanical as a computer.  The act of writing a diary is a selfish one (after all, you are writing solely for yourself with no regard for others' opinions or feelings and assuming that your writing will be read by only you), but it is normal to want and have one purely selfish outlet in which to pour out your soul.  So can an online diary even be called a "diary?"  What about those who tailor their blogging and diaries to the desires of their readers?  Writing is not made to be a self-conscious thing.  It is meant to be something beautiful that you can be proud of, something that makes you feel so satisfied that you want and need to put your name on it.

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