- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

The dawning of the Internet age took activities traditionallyperformed with pen and paper and made them into nothing more than electronic impulses. Postal mail became e-mail, photos became digital and diaries became blogs.

Blogs and bloggers, most recently in the news for their ability to check on politicians and uncover memo scandals, don’t just serve journalistic purposes. For millions of Internet users, Web logs also are places to keep personal journals or diaries ultimately at the disposal and in plain view of the Web-surfing public.

Although diaries traditionally are considered personal and for the writer’s eyes only, authors of online diaries don’t seem to care that Internet users all over the world can see what they write. RMIT University in Australia, which is conducting a study about bloggers’ personality types and reasons they blog, says the majority of bloggers consider their Web log content to be extremely personal or occasionally personal, yet they write anyway.

Despite the personal content contained in such blogs, research suggests that most people write personal blogs because they know someone will read it, says John Scalzi, a freelance writer and AOL Journal employee.

“I think a lot of people that keep online journals have two desires,” Mr. Scalzi says. “They want to write and so keeping an online journal or diary is a way of writing every day. [But], to be totally blunt about it, there is the ego satisfaction to know that you are putting something out there and someone is reading it.”

The ego trip provided by knowing someone is reading what you write, even if it is boring and limited to stories about your cat, is enough to keep people blogging online verses writing the same stories in a paper journal, Mr. Scalzi says.

The RMIT research confirms this as true, says Peter Saunders, the graduate student conducting the study.

“The main reasons that people blog instead of keeping a pen-and-paper journal seems to be due to the interactive nature of blogging,” Mr. Saunders says. “Bloggers indicated that they enjoy writing for an audience and that the comments they receive from others on their blog provide useful feedback.”

Because bloggers and paper diarists tend to write for two essentially different reasons, there often is little comparison between the two, Mr. Saunders says. It is hard to tell, he says, whether people who blog stop keeping their paper journals or whether blogging promotes journaling on paper.

“Certainly, some bloggers indicated that they had stopped writing pen-and-paper journals because they had found blogging, but I’m not sure if it also works the other way,” Mr. Saunders says. “What we have found is that quite often bloggers also keep a pen-and-paper journal.”

For those who don’t keep both types of journals, research indicates, few personality differences are involved in who keeps a blog and who does not.

“The only major difference was the bloggers are more likely to be open to experience than pen-and-paper journal writers,” Mr. Saunders says.

Age and sex may have an influence. For the most part, Mr. Saunders says, bloggers tend to be younger than paper journalers, and men are more likely to keep a blog than a paper diary.

Blogging, however, has not eliminated paper journaling, says Joan Neubauer, author of the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Journaling.

“[People] want to tell the world [online] a certain percentage of their life and their feelings, but that sharing only goes so far,” Ms. Neubauer says. “You get down to the second or third level of feelings and those are intensely personal; [people] aren’t ready to share that online so they … keep a paper journal.”

In the end, blogging may be just another way for people to share their passions online. Like chat rooms, forums and other Internet communities, blogging can provide a sense of connection.

“Everyone has a story to tell, everyone has something that their passion is about,” says Weblog Handbook author Rebecca Blood. “Thousands of years ago, people gathered around campfires in caves and talked about what was interesting to them. Twenty years ago, people told it around the water cooler at work. … That has all been transplanted to the Web. It’s just another outlet for human beings to do something they have been doing for millenniums.”

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