Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Journaling Can be a Remedy for the Chaos of the Digital Age

<t down to write this article, I tried to think back to the first time I kept a journal, but I couldn’t. A problem presented itself immediately: what counts as a journal and what doesn’t? Nowadays, I keep a rectangular journal-shaped object with blank pages in my backpack pretty much 24/7, so that I have it on hand whenever I feel like writing something down. That’s definitely a journal.

In high school, I kept similar rectangular-shaped objects, but with lined pages, on my dresser at home. They, too, were definitely journals.

But beyond that, it gets a little murky. I used to scribble random thoughts in the margins of my notes during classes in middle school; does that mean my binder full of earth science notes from sixth grade counts as a journal?

When I was little, I kept diaries; are diaries the same as journals? When I started high school, I got a Facebook and used to post much more frequently than I do now. Can Facebook be considered a journal? If someone else reads them, do they cease to be journals? Do journals have to be made of physical paper?

In my experience, there’s something different about picking up a pen and setting it to paper than typing words on a screen, whether it’s in a blank Word document or in a Facebook post. I love writing in my favorite journal with my favorite pens. It’s more personal, and makes me feel more powerful, than typing a message into the void of the internet. Maybe I’m old-fashioned (at age ten, my dearest wish in the world was for a typewriter).

Or maybe everyone feels this way and there’s nothing remarkable at all about the difference between writing with a pen and writing on a keyboard. Whatever the case, it makes a difference to me.

Physical journaling helps me organize not just my thoughts, but also my experiences. I’ve had many a realization while scribbling away in my journal. Sometimes I’ll write what seems like nonsense in the moment, and then, months later, I’ll look back at it and find a sentence or a phrase that helps me understand something else.

I recommend giving Joan Didion’s essay “On Keeping a Notebook” a read. It’s a good reminder for me of one of the reasons why I like to journal; as she writes, “we are well advised to keep on nodding terms my day or an update on major events in my life. I find myself writing about chance encounters, questions that I’ve been thinking about for a while, memories, snippets of dreams from the night before, lists of goals, lists of ideas.

I like to write fiction, too, so my journal is only about 50% “true,” if that. I tape and glue in odds and ends that life gathers—post-its, cut-out images from magazines, notes from friends. No one reads my journal but me, which is what distinguishes it from social media
in my mind. That’s also what has made it grow on me more and more over the years, while Facebook has become less and less of a priority. As I get older, I see the appeal of social media less than I used to, but the appeal of processing my life and my ideas only gets stronger.

A few years from now, my Carleton days, and probably my Carleton op-eds, will feel distant. But my Carleton journals will still be around, keeping me in the company of my Carleton self. In today’s technological age, my journal connects me firmly both to the real world and to the world of my imagination and ideas. It helps me stop myself from putting too much emphasis on other people’s social media posts. It gives me a way to organize my thoughts and experiment with writing without incurring the judgment of others.

It also helps me go easier on myself; it’s hard to find time at Carleton to commit to a strict habit of, say, writing a diary entry every day, but when I give myself the freedom to write or not to write on any particularday, journaling becomes a reward rather than an obligation.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *