Audience appreciation

Some of the comments and conversations going on here and on other journals have led me to thinking: who exactly are we writing these things for?

The common answer most people give is 'for myself'. But if that was the case, why do it publicly? Why not just use an old notebook, or a file on your desktop? When you set up an online journal, you accept you're making what you write open to all. You may not surrender copyright, but you certainly surrender privacy.

And yet if you browse randomly through people's journals, so many 'confide' secrets that surely their authors can't want others to know about? They write how they feel about partners and would-be partners, about how they're looking for a new job, about how they hope their parents don't find out what they've been up to, how they're skiving off work or school with a faked illness, how they hope to borrow money off someone so that they can have a night on the town or new clothes.

I suppose that's the glory of this journal phenomenon – it appears to be life, warts and all. It seems to give you a snap-shot of ordinary people's lives across the world, not filtered through the media or any other lens. (Of course, what it principally reveals is that most people's lives are exactly the same as each other's, whether they are in Philadelphia, Feltham or the Falkland Islands, and that most people don't like themselves much.)

But it can't be that simple. Everybody is surely voluntarily filtering out stuff. I, for example, have a self-imposed ban on writing anything about my home life and anything about work. And of course I have to be aware this could be read by voters or journalists at some point in the future. That doesn't always leave a lot to write about :o)

I can't be the only person doing that, although perhaps my age – 34 – makes me more cautious than your average teenage journal author. (Early on I blundered across a DJ help page with the age profile of users – I was way up near the top, and I get closer if you exclude the people pretending to be Harry Potter's parents and giving dates of birth that make them show up as thirtysomethings…)

Me, I just like bandwagons, particularly internet ones. Everyone else seems to be doing this new thing, journal-keeping, and I want to be part of it. I love most sorts of net-based communications – message boards, for example. And of course, writing is what I'm trained to do.

But I'm curious about why other people do it…