“Okay, hands up who writes a daily diary?” – small show of hands. “Now, hands up who has ever tried to keep a daily diary in the past?” – large show of hands.
Since I started talking to people about Trisent’s contextual diary (now called Codi) I have been surprised at the number of people who have said they attempted to keep a diary in the past only to give up, I know that I did. It seems that over half of the people I talked to said they had kept a diary, but often not for very long. A few said they still kept a diary but were definitely in the minority (although I was genuinely surprised at the number that still do). The main reason for people giving up was that it was time consuming and some had concerns about privacy (keeping their diaries secret). Nobody said it was because they didn’t see any value although there was some apparent apathy.
Since so many people keep, have kept, or wish they still maintained a diary I was curious about the value and benefits that our diaries can provide. Interestingly I could not find a single benefit – let me rephrase that – I noted multiple benefits but there was no particularly dominant one. People use their diaries in different ways and record different types of things for a variety of reasons. My sample was small (basically family and friends) so I looked for other sources of data about diarists via the Internet.
From a US 1996 survey Ruth Folit of Life Journal established that 50% of people interviewed had kept a diary and that 16% were active diary writers. Statista published UK data for 2014 that showed over 21% of children and young people regularly wrote a diary. Almost a third of all girls kept a diary. In regards to why people keep a diary, the Life Journal article cites a variety of reasons but concludes: Seems to me that most journal keepers are trying to improve their lives. I think people who keep journals agree with Socrates: “An unexamined life is not worth living.”
I confess I have still not bottomed out all of the reasons for keeping a diary, but there is clearly a long list of benefits and I know that I have personally benefited from keeping records and photos that log my life. I stopped writing my own personal diary when I was about 18 after my girlfriend “borrowed” and read it – so lack of security is an issue. My other personal reason for not writing a diary was a lack of time. But, I am using Codi now and find it very interesting and even useful in unexpected ways such as being able to quickly verify the source of expense receipts. With an automatic system I now feel the benefits of being a diarist again without the burden of writing.
Extrapolating the statistics there could be up to 1 billion people worldwide that keep diaries regularly. While that is a very big number I think the more interesting number is the 6.5 billion people that don’t! It looks like many people would like to have a journal of their life but the perceived benefits of keeping a traditional diary are not seen to outweigh the burdens for most. But, there are now over 4.6 billion mobile phone users worldwide and …..