My latest novel, Confessions of a High School Disaster (available as an extended excerpt until March 20th), is told in diary format: there’s one entry for each day in a year of Chloe Snow’s life. Chloe writes in a paper diary, and at first I was worried that would seem antiquated, like I was forcing my contemporary character to wear a corset or drive to school in a barouche-landau. But then I found a study claiming that up to 83% of girls ages 16 to 19 write in old-fashioned diaries. Why would they do this, when they could be sharing their feelings with their many followers online, or at the very least taking notes in an app? I think there are three key reasons.
1. The lack of an audience is a relief
There’s so much pressure to perform online. Yes, there are a variety of modes available: you can be elaborately kind, or share interesting content, or make cutting remarks, or crack jokes, or post beautiful shots. But if you want those likes/retweets/shares, you have to keep your audience in mind at all times. It’s exhausting. What a relief, then, to turn to your diary, where your only audience is your future self. Do you feel like wallowing in self-pity, or fuming about how annoying your best friend is being, or making a list of guys you want to kiss? You can’t do any of that on social media (well, you can, but you really shouldn’t). But in the pages of your diary, anything goes. No one’s watching. Give in to your most selfish impulses, free of the fear that you’ll be unfollowed or screenshotted.
2. It helps
I don’t know how it works, exactly, but I know that when you’re upset, writing about it eases the pain. Typing about it kind of works, but not nearly as well as picking up a pen and scratching away in your diary until your hand cramps.
3. You’re making a time capsule
You think you’ll remember exactly what it felt like to be a sophomore/a college student/a single 20-something/a new mother/etc. But you won’t unless you write it all down. The act of writing itself solidifies your memories, even if you never revisit your old diaries. But if you do revisit them, you’ll find that you’ve captured a whole world, that your childhood is still accessible to you, that you can commune with the kid who dotted her i’s with hearts. It’s magic that you make yourself.