dear diaries
A look at the demise of the online journal

Illustration by Nathan Fletcher

ILLUSTRATION: NATHAN FLETCHER
WORDS: MISS AMP

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SELF-HARM AND BAD POETRY

The web’s increased popularity means that the freedom of the web as online journallers knew it back then has been lost forever. Most people who have kept an online journal have had the experience of it being read by someone who was never intended to see its comments (usually a real-life friend, acquaintance or lover) - the intruder’s rationale being, quite logically, that if it was private, it should never be on the internet.

The power of Google’s search function means that if your journal is or has ever been linked to your real name in any way, it will be found by a potential or current employer (or worse, lover) with all the repercussions that implies. And, quite simply, the form has been devalued by the millions upon millions of people (particularly but not exclusively on Livejournal) who use their online journals as a forum to explore their self-loathing, self-harm scars, and penchant for bad poetry.


MODERN-DAY POMPEII

So where now, for the online journal? While a few journals, such as Wendy McClure’s Poundy.com, have been published as novels (Poundy.com became I’m Not The New Me), the generally poor sales of journals-to-books suggest that th inherently fractured, episodic nature of web writing doesn’t translate particularly well to the more sustained narrative required by the novel. Most early online journals have either disappeared, or morphed into blogs.

Perhaps those drawn to the art of being private in public will return to fanzines: paradoxically, print fanzine publication now offers the same advantages of early internet publishing: the chance to spill secrets to a select, understanding audience operating within a shared community of interest. Maybe journal writers will finally make the leap to fiction, channeling their secrets in to thinly veiled representations of themselves.

Or maybe online journals will simply remain forever archived on the Wayback Machine; fragments of lives at the cusp of the millennium frozen forever like a modern-day Pompeii: a heart-breaking testament to the innocence of the early days of the web.



Read an interview with Wendy McClure of Poundy.com


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