Diaries: are they still relevant?

From Bridget Jones’s Diary to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, diary-writing is something which features enormously in popular culture. Every soul-searching teenager seems to have succumbed to the stereotype at one time or another and committed their thoughts to paper, sometimes in a book with a little pink padlock on it. For generations, young people have channelled their feelings, crushes and soppy poetry with pen and paper as a memory aid and a source of nostalgia in later years, usually in the (rather paradoxical) hope that no-one will read them.

And it’s not just teenagers: adults sometimes keep their thoughts recorded in a similar way. It is, however, considered more of a teenage pursuit, conjuring images of angst-ridden girls smearing ink with their tears and hiding their little books of secrets under their pillows. But as the success of epistolary novels from Pamela to Princess Diaries has shown, the form is still immensely popular amongst readers and writers, young and old alike.

But is the diary’s time coming to an end? With the field of personal blogging still growing, has the funeral march of the traditional journal already played? Facebook and Twitter have made an amateur columnist out of all of us, with our secrets and gripes alike flashed all over the world for all to read. I have never successfully managed to keep a diary going any longer than a week or two – a lack of staying power may have something to do with that – but, personally, I think that people will always put their thoughts down on paper, if only for the reason that the internet seems to be something not to be trusted. Edward Snowden and the like have made people less and less willing to trust the internet with their secrets, and even though teenagers have been at the forefront of the digital revolution even they seem to have been put off by the insecure nature of the ‘net. It seems to me that, however much people may place their private lives in the hands of the entire world, there will always be a place for the deeper privacy of one of these secretive little books.