Online journals are a voyeur’s delight

In Arts & Life /

By Caroline Pelletier

There are certain titillating websites that will give you an illicit thrill, and someone behind those websites is probably sitting next to you in English class. They’re called web diaries, online journals, weblogs, or simply, blogs. And logging onto these websites can feel more devilish than downloading a Metallica song.

Reading personal websites can be very sexy, says Murray Pomerance, chair of the sociology department. He says it’s thrilling to read things that people might not divulge in polite conversation.

Pomerance compares online journals to farting. Everyone farts, no one talks about it and the official polite position on the subject is that “no one has ever farted in the history of mankind,” he says.

Chris Johnston, a second-year journalism student, has never written about farting on his blog. Entropy, but he’ll write about almost anything else.

When Johnston moved to Toronto from his hometown, Cobourg, Ont., he was feeling pretty lonely. “I find that [living in] Toronto is a hollow experience sometimes,” he says.

Johnston needed a way to express himself. He had read a few blogs, and four months ago, he decided to start one of his own.

Entropy is a collection of thoughts on his job, school, relationships and political issues. Though the site originated as a way to express personal ideas, eventually, Johnston says, he had to address other issues.

On August 16, he wrote about Naomi Klein, author of the anti-consumerism bible, No Logo. “How can she provide so much detail, see the shit that she has seen, write what she writes, and still wear Fendi,” Johnston wrote. “Fucking Fendi! Even a rural moron like me knows that Fendi is one of the penultimate brands.”

Johnston says he’d feel vulnerable if everyone was reading Entropy. He wouldn’t want his mother to read it and he definitely wouldn’t want his ex-girlfriend to see the site. Yet he gets a rush knowing he has readers. “It’s weird to know that people know what you’re thinking,” he says. ” It’s like a fetish.”

Starting an online journal is almost as easy as farting. Diaryland.com and Livejournal.com are free websites that host online diaries. If you want all the bells and whistles, you should at least know basic HTML coding. But if you just want to get your thoughts out, keeping an online journal is as easy as typing an email. Diaryland and Livejournal code the website for you, letting you concentrate on the writing.

To receive feedback, you can provide a link to your email address or get yourself a guestbook (a good free provider is signmyguestbook.com).

Samra Habib, a third-year journalism student, says she has a public-speaking phobia. Her online journal, which she started a year ago, gives her a chance to speak her mind.

Some of Habib’s favourite topics are feminism, and how the media portrays minorities. She says communicating with other online diaries on these issues is an eye-opening experience.

Habib posted often following the terrorist attacks in the United Sates. “Mosques in St. Catherines, and Montreal were burned, but fortunately not too much harm was done,” she wrote. “I find it incredibly difficult to go on. Not because of the obvious loss of thousands of innocent lives but because of my perspective as a Muslim woman. Why did it all happen? How many more lives?”

Marissa Neave uses her blog, Triatic (www.triatic.net), as a platform to express her opinions on world issues, but she also writes about the mundane, everyday things that consume most students’ lives. “I went to the mall last night to buy a tripod, a polarizing filter, and some film. Now I can use school as an excuse to buy them,” she writes. “I mean, I don’t really need these things, but they would make my life a lot easier.”

The first-year image arts student has been writing about her life online since 1996. When Neave began writing, her blog was much more personal than it is today. As more people started reading it, she naturally started censoring herself.

Pomerance says although blog readers may “start believing that you have access to the real backstage,” they don’t get the full picture by merely reading a personal website.

Johnston worries that acquaintances may base their opinion of him solely on Entropy. His close friends see the discrepancies between his blog personality and his real one. One of his friends told him he sounds unusually depressed in his blog. He say’s he’s more compelled to write when he’s feeling down. Generally, he’s a pretty happy guy.

Neave admits that Triatic isn’t a complete picture of her life. “There are certain things that people normally don’t share,” she says.

Habib really started reflecting on her life when she started her online journal. She plans to keep writing as long as blogging exists.

And Johnston, describing himself as a broken record, has developed a better understanding of his patterns of behaviour. “It always comes back to girls,” he says laughing.

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