History: Part two: Or private thoughts in public spaces.

As I left university and entered the workplace in my first ‘proper’ job (Internet journalist) I moved my offline diary-keeping into the online space. I was an active member of Open Diary (OD) from the start of 1999 until sometime in 2001, just before they launched the paid-for version.

I don’t recall what initially spurred me to start publishing my thoughts online (although, clearly, it still appeals!), perhaps the standard attraction of vanity publishing, perhaps because I was online so much of the time it seemed easier to keep writing from the desktop than go back to pen and paper.

It was quite an eventful time in my life so perhaps I just thought I had lots to say and liked having a record I could easily flip back through as I completed university and left full-time education, entered the workplace, moved back to my hometown and transformed a friendship into a relationship (with my now husband).

Whatever made me start with OD it was the community that kept me coming back. I was soon in a circle of seemingly like-minded diarists and we would regularly (in some cases more like religiously) read and comment on each other’s entries. For me it was the best of both worlds – a place to pour out private thoughts, feelings and worries while also getting feedback from people who wouldn’t know me in real life. My feelings and experiences were out there in public and yet still remained intensly private.

I valued those comments from diarists I respected as much, sometimes more, than my real life peers. Some of their words still stay with me although I have no complete record of my online entries. Certainly when events in my life were hard to talk about with those who knew me in real life I was able to honestly and openly catalogue them online and receive support from those who read me – it gave me access to people who had experienced what I had (or something similar) when offline there was no such person around.

I know over the time I was with OD I made more than 100 entries and that my usage was tailing off by the time they announced it would split into two sister sites – one paid for and one not. Many of my ‘circle’ went with the paid for service but I lost my diary before I made a decision.

Losing that diary marked the start of a quieter period for me in online life as I moved to my first flat and had no Internet connection. I was spending all of my working day online and exploring possibilities for the space in my everyday job so for a while I didn’t feel I was losing anything by not using the Internet in my personal life.

The value I got from being part of an online community stayed with me though. Not only did it give me the skills I needed for my next job (online community coordinator) but it was there at the back of my mind when once again I found myself in a different position to my real-life peers (more of that in part three).

It’s interesting as well that of the two people from my circle who have stuck in my memory for their unfailing advice and support back on OD a Google search shows that one of them is still with OD (and still looks to be on a similar life path to me) and the other one has an ongoing blog / personal website. We’re all still out in the online space just not tethered together under one banner anymore. I wonder if I should give them a wave?

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