Keeping a Diary in the Digital Age

I was never one for keeping a daily journal, or a diary.

The last time I did have a physical notebook for a diary was back in college. I have no idea where that notebook is now.

Keeping a journal and writing in it at least every day helps hone one’s writing skills. That’s what everyone says.

I think my writing skills have gotten rusty. It had never really been good or thought-provoking, but now it’s more like dribble. The only way to get better at it is to keep writing and writing, and I think a daily journal would help me in that regard.

My daily journal is different from this blog, or keeping a blog in general. When I write a blog post, I can’t help but think of the prospective audience who will stumble upon the post, read it, react to it, and unconsciously critique the way it’s been written. This tempers what I want to write, and how I want to write it. I definitely can’t rant and rave with abandon on this blog.

On the other hand, I can choose to write anything and everything on my daily journal, with only one audience – me.

Since I have awful handwriting, I decided that keeping a notebook and pen wasn’t for me. It gives me cramps, and I can’t just delete stuff I say willy-nilly. And I make a lot of mistakes. I don’t like writing longhand so much that my more than 6-year-old Moleskine notebook only has one inked page.

A digital diary is more suited for someone like me.

There are many such websites, services, and apps that address this need. I first tried blogging platforms like Blogger and Tumblr, setting privacy to only be viewable by myself. But because they were blogging platforms, I never really got into the habit because I kept thinking that security might slip and someone might see it. Paranoid much.

Then there was Penzu, which allows a user to post on the website, or reply to a reminder email sent every day asking how her day went. Posts can be set to be private, or publicly shown. I didn’t like it very much either, though I think it had more to do with my perception that the service was incomplete, since I would have to upgrade to a Pro subscription if I wanted to just change my theme.

The daily journal idea was shelved until I found a Lifehacker post talking about keeping a personal journal online. I found two suggestions I really liked – OhLife and Day One.

OhLife is a web-based service, with a very simple premise – write a post by replying to an automatically sent email every day and it will be hosted privately on the site. It’s not a social network or blog in that you can’t share posts, unless you let someone log into your account. The interface also looks very clean and well-designed, which is another plus in my book.

It's pretty, isn't it?
It’s pretty, isn’t it?

Day One is a journaling app for iOS and OS X systems. It’s $10 for the Mac app, and $5 for the iPhone/iPad app. Unlike OhLife, it’s not web-based and instead relies on syncing files over services such as Dropbox, iCloud or a folder of your choosing. If you have an Apple machine and don’t want your diary to be on the world wide web, this is a good alternative.

Like Lifehacker says, it's an elegant app.
Like Lifehacker says, it’s an elegant app.

Entries are not encrypted, though you can password-protect the app itself. So if you’re more paranoid than I am and want the most security for your diary entries (what would you be writing that would require that much security?), Day One might not be the app for you.

Another plus point for Day One over OhLife is the ability to add a photo to your entry. Currently, you can only add one photo, but on Day One’s FAQ page, they say that they are working on a multiple photo upload feature.

There are other options suggested on Lifehacker, but I thought that these two were the best for me.

I’m only on my first day/night with these, but here’s hoping I’m able to continue for a longer period than two weeks, just so I can get into the habit of writing again.


4 thoughts on “Keeping a Diary in the Digital Age

    1. Yeah, it is! I found it was much easier to write my post as a reply to an email – the words flowed much more quickly for me. 🙂

  1. Seems interesting nga… rather than keeping a notebook or journal… will that suit me? I don’t think so hahahaha! but can come handy… :p

    1. It’s been quite useful to me so far. I use it mostly to record what I did during the day – I have terrible short-term memory and writing down the day’s events helps. It’s also where I rant and rave in peace. 😀

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