Do you remember your first dairy? Perhaps it was pink with flowers and given to you as a little girl to record your hopes and dreams. Or maybe you were a teenager and your best friend gifted it to you for secrets too private for even her to hear. Or it could have been your first love who presented you with a beautiful leather-bound journal to write your private thoughts.
The cover hardly matters; instead what matters are all those pages filled with dreams and desires, personal experiences and private thoughts and most importantly, the emotions felt, remembered, written.
There was a time when recording one’s thoughts and feelings was considered the occupation of would be writers and teenage girls. But the diary’s limited purpose of being useful for only Jane Austen’s private musings and pubescent angst was broadened when Oprah announced it was good for the soul. Soon men and women alike regardless of occupation or age found bound pages and a pen and set out to put psychologists out of business.
Turns out, recording one’s thoughts and feelings is cathartic, gives clarity and perspective, reduces stress, and helps individuals to understand and know themselves better. However, these benefits are only realized if this method works for you.
I still remember my small brown pocket diary in which after a year I had only made two entries. My progress in filling more pages was stunted because I was and continue to feel cautious about recording my thoughts and feelings, fearing they may be read.
Call it arrogance for believing that my private writings could cause interest or gain attention or call it paranoia that I think anyone would want to read it. But still I worry about discovery so I keep my thoughts and feelings secreted inside me not my diary.
But today’s generation is different. Their diaries and journals are social media outlets. They text, tweet and post every thought, experience and feeling with little regard to who reads what. Who hasn’t winced or even gasped at someone’s indiscretion in a Facebook post? Admitting affairs, confessing transgressions, divulging details best left out causes me to wonder what is this generation’s definition of privacy? Because I don’t believe that revealing personal accounts of one’s life to several hundred people constitutes privacy.
Social media has provided a platform for reconnecting with friends and networking but it seems to have also set the stage for a whole generation’s propensity for narcissism and over-sharing at best and at worst a forum for individuals to injudiciously announce every thought and feeling.
So the question is how does this free and reckless expression affect this generation? Depending on the magnitude of what is admitted, it can cost them jobs, damage relationships and ruin reputations.
I caution this generation to understand the permanence of their words, which unlike torn paper remains even after hitting the delete button. They need to understand that they don’t have to share every feeling or have every thought confirmed with a like button. And they should know that there is beauty and intimacy in the privacy of thought.
So post that adorable picture of your dog and announce your graduation date but if you need to express your darkest of feelings or deepest thoughts—grab a pen and a piece of paper and write, “Dear Diary” or as your generation might write, “Dear D”.
Causes Sherry Parnell Supports
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, Heifer International