I’ve kept a daily hand-written diary since I was 14.
I’m turning 46 next month.
As I was driving home tonight listening to “Mexican Home” by John Prine, not sure of the connection but my mind wandered to the last few days and how many different art events I had attended (it’s LA Arts Month here in L.A.). Because I’ve been so busy, I’m a day or two behind in writing up my diary—and yes, I do “catch up” so I have daily entries. Obsessive? Maybe so; but it also provides a sense of completion for me, as well as a wonderful way to recall what I did and when. Some people have that instantaneous memory that can relay where they were on what date, doing what and with whom. Not I.
When I’m this busy, the days seem to run into each other, and suddenly I realized that my regular check-ins on Foursquare would be providing me that memory trigger to be able to accurately document my days in my diary. And then it hit me further: these two conduits through which I keep track of my world could not be more different. One is utterly private; my penmanship is so messy and small, I’ve never had to have a lock on my diary to protect either against my little sister (as a teen) nor potentially nosy mates (as an adult). The other could not be more public. (And just to address it: yes, Facebook could be used the same way, but I personally don’t use FB as much for where I am as for posting articles, sharing photos, etc., with the periodic–hopefully relevant–post about what I’m doing.)
Everything is shorter, more compact these days when it comes to information. Complex thoughts or bits of information are consistently “dumbed down” to the simplest catchphrase. Foursquare is a perfect example of that. You don’t even NEED a catchphrase, you just find your location when you are someplace, and click “Check In.” Yet I’m hooked. Maybe because I’m a marketer; maybe because I know I have the counter-response to it in the evening, when I sit down and review the day.
I’m not declaring my diary entries as scintillating as ones would be from, oh, Lindsay Lohan (if she had the wherewithal to write one) or Bill Clinton (who did). Admittedly, after 31 years of notebooks that range in style from flowery teenage diaries to “Composition Books” to the current recycled notebooks, the process often is quite rote (“Woke up, went to gym, worked at desk most of day…”). But inevitably, as I quietly let the pen take over and enter a stream-of-consciousness mode, a nugget may creep in, something I did or read that I hadn’t realized had much significance at the time; or very personal reflection to an emotional event. The privacy of my one-woman dialogue also periodically encourages snarky running commentary on any ridiculous personalities or situations I’ve encountered that day—a la Ricky Gervais at the 2011 Golden Globes. Better here than ‘in public’.
You just don’t get this with Foursquare (and hopefully on Facebook, you don’t go overboard either). There is something magical about a personal, thoughtful relationship with oneself; I treasure it.
I love that I can check in on Foursquare, earn my points that will someday get me a free Starbucks coffee or make me Mayor of my gym. It’s a hoot! But in our days that are inundated with information from every corner imaginable corner—phones, iPads, radio, TV, YouTube, eNewsletters, newspapers, etc. etc.—that quiet time with my own diary, my own reflection (even if you do it on your iPad) is a valued, and PRIVATE outlet, even when it feels periodically like an obligation after this many years…one I just can’t seem to let go.