Recently, I was asked why I thought journaling, and Internet journaling in particular, has become such a phenomenon. I rattled off a bunch of bullet points but I’ve continued to think about my answer and thought I’d share my thoughts with you to see if you want to refute or amplify my hypotheses.
First, there’re the tools at hand. The Internet and blogging let us share our personal work with like-minded people more easily. In the past, one might keep a diary that some descendant could unearth in the attic after we’ve passed, but the practice was basically solipsistic. In the new millennium, while our stories and drawings may not find an audience in our homes or communities, the Web lets us find interested readers from Belgium to Brisbane. The fact that someone else is interested helps to keep us going.
But technology also helps to create the need. I think that all this technology and titanium has made handmade things much more appealing. Even if it ends up as a jpeg, putting ink, graphite, and good old watercolors down on paper is a warm and pleasant break from email and cel phoning.
The next factor is our zeitgeist. We live in the age of memoir and confession. Anything goes and everyone’s an audience. Reality TV, James Frey, Augusten Burroughs, Oprah, Bill Clinton, everyone is sharing their story whether anyone asked or not. You don’t need to be a celebrity or a world leader to be worth listening to any more; now, if you get a publishing contract your personal life is, well, an open book. It follows that we all have a heightened need for self-analysis and -exposure.
Our culture has also become increasingly about individual achievement: the star athlete, the maverick CEO, the non-aligned President, etc. Despite a brief window of collective focus after 9/11, ‘s not about community any more; instead ‘s about self-absorption.
Most if us have the leisure time for journaling. Oh sure there’re a zillion diversions and distractions but if we want to make the time, we can have it. Turn off the tube, the Crackberry, the RSS feed, and do a bit of self-analysis.
And more and more of us have that need because of a growing sense of our own mortality. Baby boomers are the largest group in the population and we are in mid-life. Beginning to sum up, to think about what we’ve learned from life, and interested in sharing what we find.
Another aspect of modern life is reflected in the last essay I wrote here, about the effects of globalization on our environment. The more homogeneity there is, the more we seek quirk and particularity in others and ourselves. If everyone’s wearing clothes from the same stores and eating food from the same restaurants, we have all the more need to make our own mark, to stand out from the crowd.
While the world imposes consistency on us through megabranding, it is also providing us with a lot of tumult and anxiety. We are looking for answers and perspective and sitting down with a blank piece of paper and a pen is a great way to start looking.
It also seems that organized religion hasn’t managed to give us a strong enough sense of meaning in the modern world. I don’t feel that the Pope or the mullahs or the Christian Right are providing any answers I can relate to; instead it seems ‘s up to me to get to the bottom of things and chart a path for passing through these troubled waters. Again, slowing down and meditating on the moment with a pen in my hand brings me peace and balance.
Why have you started journaling? And what role does drawing play in it?