blogs phenomenon: a 16-year-old girl wrote in her diary last night, just like millions of other people have done for centuries, but this diary was read by an artist in Baltimore, a law student from Oregon, and a retired salesman in Chicago - none of whom she knew. These people and many others are part of the online journaling community, a new phenomenon thriving especially among the young. Today, there are already several sites that offer free journals, the most popular being Blogger.com, LiveJournal.com and Xanga.com.
so what? Young people like Karen*, a 24-year-old college student from Seattle, and 17-year-old Joshua* from San Francisco, are two of the millions of people who use online journals. Journals are used as a therapy against frustration as well as a means of communicating with others. Karen, for example, loves writing about interesting projects that she's involved in, local happenings that she recommends and also posts photos of the places she has traveled to.
unknown friends: Joshua and Karen prefer people they don't know reading their journals as opposed to people they do know. Advice from strangers seems to be an option that many young people are comfortable with because it's anonymous and read by people at their own free will. Not only that, but strangers seem more inclined to be honest. “Our whole society is built on the concept that it's unkind to be completely honest,” explains Karen. A stranger is less likely to know what she wants to hear and will give her the blunt truth instead.
aware users: still, this kind of public view into one's personal life can seem negligent - even down-right dangerous - especially when it concerns young people. And with the recurring new dangers of technology where strangers meet up with children through instant message programs, parents are becoming more and more wary of all the new ways for predators to attack their children. At the same time, technology concerning security has also advanced and some teenagers are arguing that they have power over what they reveal in their journals. However, beyond the fact that other people can read one's diary, they can also leave a message for the author to read. Though neither Karen nor Joshua have been victims of any serious harassment, it can be an annoying issue at times. “I do sometimes get sleazy/creepy people sending me messages,” admits Karen, “but that's what the delete key and ignore button are for!” Of course these online journals will get their occasional unwanted comment or viewing, but “most of the time, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks,” adds Karen. She gets continuous public feedback on her writing, and getting into the habit of writing actually inspired her to start writing for a local newspaper.
linking people: the benefits of an online journal are not limited to just advice and everyday problems; many people like Karen use their journals to actually meet new friends and share interests. Of course, “people should observe basic safety and common sense online (i.e. don't meet people you don't know from the Internet unless it is in a public place, don't automatically trust that everything a stranger says is true, etc.),” Karen reminds. Moreover, not only has this new phenomenon reached communities that have not been traditionally interested in diaries, it has also helped link these communities, creating bonds between the old and young, rockers and artists, geeks and jocks, and even those living in different continents. For whatever reason journaling (blogging) has exploded within the younger communities, it's clear that it has given youth a voice that is booming and an expanding circle of friends - whether real life or on-line.
environmental blogs: as a participatory media, the blog is also expanding in more committed forms. A clear example is the increasing phenomenon of environmental blogs. Here just a couple of examples:
- Sustainablog is dedicated to news, information and personal meanderings related to environmental and economic sustainability, green and sustainable business, and environmental politics [
- LiveWire, the Greenpeace Aotearoa NZ weblog, where Greenpeace activists post their updates live from the field. [
* Names have been changed.