I wondered if everyone who journals so much kept diaries when young. I don't think anyone knows how rare or not rare diary keeping is. Back in the seventies I read one supposed scholarly take on diaries, in which the author decreed that historically, few kept diaries. First, his references were all to men, and second, how could he possibly know? I remember once my brother and I were walking in the alley behind the houses, it having been trash day. Fallen into the gutter from one of the trash cans was one of those locking diaries that people my age might recall. Might still be in existence. I picked it up and leafed through it. It was a teenage girl's diary. She'd kept it steadily for quite some time, but the entries were short, and confined completely to her social life. Sort of "Today Bill smiled at me in class, but Debbi kept trying to get his attention." The high point was when Bill asked her to go in his car. To "go in a car" at that high school, I'd recently learned, meant to drive with a boy up to Playa Del Rey's point. The "point" was the top of a steep street overlooking the ocean, directly under the flight path of LAX. After that there were a bunch of entries about going in his car, and who was going with whom, and yadda, then some brief, unhappy ones mostly slanging Bill, and then onward again, with occasional reference to group activities, like going to the beach. We didn't know which house the diary belonged to--our street was really, really long, probably forty houses along it on our side. We didn't know if the diarist herself tossed it, or her parents did if, say, she went away to college, and the parents cleaned out her room, as happens.
How many people burned diaries later in life? How many families burned diaries of deceased relatives? We don't know, but all the online journalizing makes me wonder if diaries were a whole lot more common than anybody thinks. Except that there's a distinction: some are written to be public, and some to be kept private. At some point, perhaps, the writer realizes that, hey, I don't get to last forever....so what do I do with these private thoughts? Some hide them in chests, perhaps, thinking, "I'll deal with it when I'm really old" and get caught by surprise, some burn them. The ones written for an imagined future audience are self edited and left to be found.
Like L.M. Montgomery's journals. Reading passages of that, one can tell she carefully edited for that future audience, using lady-like expressions like "Dear knows" and calling poetry she wrote for social occasions "pomes". Like they weren't "serious" poetry--but she recorded every compliment. There was a comment she made around the turn of the century that I found really startling, when some young ladies complimented her new gown. "They all said my dress was 'out of sight', whatever that
means."* For a while she acted really prissy about slang, implying that she was much too ladylike and old-fashioned to use it, but she certainly knew what it was. But other entries, mostly starting with the second journal, are intensely powerful and full of anguish. She wrote about the relief of being able to express herself on subjects she did not dare talk about. The later diaries are utterly harrowing.
Anyway, I have no conclusion on that, except to marvel at what boundaries people set between public and private: user A is okay with putting intimate details out there for the world to see, and user B hides the self so thoroughly that their journal reads like a disembodied voice neutrally listing the day's accomplishments or making general observations on the issues of the day. I guess the new flag system is going to get a workout.
What is more vexing is something two people have brought up. Todaycakmpls
. And earlier in the week, fashionista_35
said in this post: mean, I know this is nothing new, but what is it about the relative anonymity of the Internet that gives people such a ridiculous sense of entitlement? And I'm seeing it everywhere. You know what I think it is? It's that people have lost the fine art of debate. They have no clue how to disagree or give a dissenting opinion without it being a direct insult or attack. And a poorly worded one at that. They don't know how to separate the valid, debatable points from personal opinion. Yes, personal opinion is important too, but you have to know how to phrase it in order to get people to give it due consideration. Or maybe I'm just an old battle-axe, expecting people to actually, you know, think about what they're saying.
I don't know that there is less an ability to argue in the old sense (an exchange of ideas from different points of view, rather than a verbal fight, which seems to be the accepted definition now)--there's plenty of evidence when one reads the daily papers or letters or commentary in olden times on duels, grudges, curses, and the like resulting from fast-escalating arguments. These just weren't as public as the ones now. There's even a term for the on-line argument that swiftly escalates into a fight: trainwreck. Yet I've seen some fairly fraught subjects engaged on with courtesy and an effort made to acknowledge what the other is saying before responding. I've even seen the rare but appreciated "What I think you're saying is this."
Yap yap, I'm not coming to any conclusions. Maybe trainwrecks (and the resultant dogpile) will inspire evolution of acceptable ways of engaging in argument. I do think the old debating method doesn't quite fit on-line exchange. But there's nothing like 300 people piling on to tell you what a fathead you are to make one 1) hide 2) sputter and fume about "See, They are out to get me!" --various subsets fitting into the They category--or 3) amend one's approach to disagreement.
* That blasts to bits my theory that "outta sight" was a phrase stemming from the rocket-fascination of the fifties and early sixties.