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Dear diary

Private thoughts shared in online journals, and a degree of anonymity may be the attraction

Private thoughts shared in online journals, and a degree of anonymity may be the attraction

August 05, 2003|by JESSICA DAVIS

jessicad@herald-mail.com

Web journals, Weblogs, online diaries, bloggers; whatever you choose to call them, one fact is certain - the popularity of writing your thoughts online shows no signs of diminishing.

A blog (a hybrid of the words "Web" and "log") is a Web page made up of short, frequently updated posts that are arranged chronologically. The content of individual blogs varies depending on the personality of the writer and availability of time. Some journal users may post commentary on music and movies or dedicate their writings to a celebrity or significant other. Most writers use their journals as a diary to post daily thoughts and memories or post photos, poetry, and even brief essays, according to blogger.com.

"Online diary" may seem like a contradictory phrase. Typically, diaries hold the writer's private thoughts, sometimes locked, and almost always kept out of the eyesight of a nosy sibling or parent. So why would someone want to put their private thoughts on the Internet?

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Christian Nikolaisen, developer of the site www.my-diary.org, suggested the answer to this question lies in the relative anonymity of the writer.

"I figure the appeal is having access to an audience while at the same time being anonymous. Getting feedback and advice for choices one makes helps sometimes," he wrote in an e-mail.

If the fact that thousands, if not millions, of people may read your daily thoughts does not daunt you, setting up your own online journal is a simple process. Many sites are available to host your journal, and they each have ways of presenting the journals that allow the user to pick different colors and fonts.

Nikolaisen said he has seen a sharp increase in my-diary.org's user base in the past six months.

Although he doesn't keep statistics because of privacy issues, Nikolaisen has read many of the diaries on the site and has received a lot of feedback and questions from users.

"My guess would be that there are a lot of users in their late teens, mostly female," he wrote.

Not all blogs are for diary purposes, according to blogger.com. Blogs also can be used for communication between groups in the workplace or families that live far apart. A blog can "keep everyone in the loop and promote cohesiveness and group culture," according to the site.

Most online journal sites have templates so that the only task users must perform is to type in their thoughts.

Signing up for an online journal is free in most cases, but gaining access to other features of a site may cost a fee. At www.livejournal.com, membership is free if a current user sends you a password. Otherwise, the user has an option of paying, at least $5 for a two-month membership. Only subscribers have access to the customized LiveJournal e-mail address and text-messaging features.

Nikolaisen added that online journals are a more than a trend.

"I believe web diaries will be a thing in the future ... maybe not for the ease and availability of web space, but for the community and exposure," he wrote. "I see more readers than writers at my site, and a lot of people that read each other's diaries."

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