Keeping a Journal in the Twenty-First Century

Journaling is alive and well in the twenty-first century.Today’s post is by Evelyn Lauer. Evelyn and I were classmates in graduate school. She also helmed the online journal Front Porch. She is a gifted poet, a talented editor, and a wife and mother.

Journals are in again.

Wreck This Journals are especially well-known. If you’re on Instagram, check the #journal feed and you’ll see what I mean: Hundreds of pictures of Wreck This Journals are posted by teens and preteens.

I don’t own a Wreck This, but according to the description on Amazon, it’s “an illustrated book that features a subversive collection of prompts, asking readers to muster up their best mistake and mess-making abilities and to fill the pages of the book (or destroy them).” A student told me that “not much writing happens” in these journals, but it seems to indicate journaling is popular again. A friend’s six-year-old daughter told me in December that all she wanted for Christmas was a diary.

I was six when I first put words to a journal, too.

I wrote in a lock-and-key diary with the Twin Stars from the Hello Kitty series. I guess part of me assumed that kids today wouldn’t have time to journal or that journaling was now reserved for Tumblr and other blogging sites or had moved to apps on our phones. But what I’m discovering is that journaling — the old-fashioned way — is alive and well.

Because I’m now writing a blog about journaling, I stalk the #journal feed on Instagram, scoping for new images. Wreck This Journals aren’t the only pictures posted. As I type this, the #journal feed on Instagram has more than 145, 700 pictures. That’s a lot of journals, pages, and pens. What surprised me the most is that people — especially young people — are still writing with pens and paper to compose what they consider “journals.”

Why is this?

As someone who has kept a journal consistently for 30 years, I think it’s because when we journal, we still value our privacy — even if privacy now means posting a picture of said journal on Instagram or Tumblr. With a bound book, there’s an illusion of privacy: my words on the page. The act of writing is private, even if we publicize it later to our friends and followers.

Why do you think people love to journal with paper and pens? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Evelyn Lauer writes First Page Last, a blog about thirty years of journal writing. She lives in Chicago where she teaches English and journalism to high school students.


  1. My first journal was a Precious Moments one. My mom gave it to me prior to our family moving to Texas. She thought I’d want to record the journey. I did my best. Coincidentally, I still have it. I like to flip through it if only to see how my handwriting changed.

    • Erin F. I like to look at how my handwriting has changed over the years too. There’s been a lot of change over 30 years! Do you still have your first journal?