I was looking up Reddit for ideas on keeping an organised personal diary, so that I can stop having random entries all over the place and, subsequently, stop being disorganised about it. A simple keyword search – “diary” – gave me no relevant result in the first three pages. Instead I got an interesting impression on the concept of “diary” itself in Western culture (or perhaps, American culture, since Reddit is predominantly American).

Here is a vague tally of what the first three pages of “diary” search results got me:

  • Media related: 35 (novels, movies, fictional diaries. “The Vampire Diary” came up a lot.)
  • “nosleep” stories: 15 (nosleep is a sub-reddit of original weird / horror tales)
  • Life tips related: 2
  • Relationships related: 7 (couples and parent-child)
  • Collaborative diary ideas: 2
  • Jokes on relationships: 4
  • Jokes on other things: 3
  • Generic interview: 1
  • Childhood memory: 1
  • History: 1
  • Contemplation: 1

To put things into perspective, I should explain that my original motive for a better diary-keeping habit was better introspection and reminders of my better times when I’m under a tough time. For example, one of my scattered journal entries was talking about how good it felt to try writing with my left hand / my non-dominant hand, and I had forgotten all about it during days of bad mood, until that page randomly reappeared one day. That was the whole motivation for me to develop a better journal-keeping habit that is easier to retrieve for years to come as well.

Having said that, the problem I need to solve here is probably unique enough to me that it’s not easy to find resources on the internet that would easily work for me. What I end up with the above search results is telling a very different story that, when I realised it, makes me put my problem temporarily aside to write this. The term “Diary”, in practice, is in fact an icon of dark mystery, commonly used in storytelling as an object that embodies everything that would turn your world, as you thought you knew, upside-down.

Let’s google the dictionary real quick:


di·a·ry ˈdī(ə)rē/ noun

noun: diary; plural noun: diaries

  • a book in which one keeps a daily record of events and experiences.
    • “I resolved to keep a diary of events during the war”
  • a datebook.
Origin:
late 16th century: from Latin diarium, from dies ‘day.’

A diary is a day. A day could contain so many untold events. Lots of little bits and pieces of facts and truth, yet frightfully unknown because Devil is in the details, and it gets overlooked easily as time flies by.

Perhaps diaries became an icon of dark mysteries due to its unknown quality, which is often a source of fear itself. Human are all inherently crazy after all, and if a diary is a representation of an individual’s true self, it only makes sense that diaries often scare others. And perhaps more often than not, people are frightened by diaries of untold secrets, not as a reaction of rejection towards the unethical acts described within, but as a shock of realisation, deep inside themselves, that they in fact relate to the darkness that they thought shouldn’t exist.

Judging from the 3 pages of Reddit search results (emphasis on how un-holistic this rambling is), relationship-related topics also came up frequently, all written in the context of distrust, lack of the comfort of privacy, and lack of self-freedom. Diary to me is an extension of my mind, and I cannot truly be myself if I’m not free. To have my diary invaded without permission is an invasion to my personal freedom. Since Big Brother phenomenon is already happening to real life, in this age when we’re being monitored whether we know it or not, you can pay attention to how your behaviour changes between being watched and not being watched by someone, even if that someone is not going to do anything with the gathered observation, like a cat. If you do own a cat, you can take this the other way around – a life without a cat. Something is bound to feel different.

But alas, the element of the unknown is every man’s source of fear. Then there’s something about our instinct of curiosity too, driving us crazy to dig the unknown out of its burying darkness. Such a simple instrument of self-introspection, carrying a radical potential of provocation.

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