Online lives?: Personal diaries on the web
Creators:Maxwell, Rebecca L.
Advisor:Kline, Susan L.
uses and gratifications
MetadataShow full item record
Publisher:The Ohio State University
Series/Report no.:The Ohio State University. School of Communication Honors Theses;2005
Online diaries and journals have been in widespread use since 1995 and now there are millions of online diarists sharing their thoughts, feelings, and opinions with the world as well as interacting with others through these online diaries. The online diary offers incredible potential for self-expression but also communication with others through the online diary audience. We sought to understand the preferences and practices of the online diary writer by administering an online survey posted to online journals and online journal communities. Our methods were grounded in Uses and Gratifications research which seeks to understand users’ motives for using media as well as self-presentation and self-esteem theory and relational dialectics theory. Survey questions assessed online diarists’ uses, gratifications, and functions of online diaries; the structure, elements, and writing process; the diarists’ orientation towards self or the audience; levels of development in online relationships made through online diaries, and online diarists’ level of self-esteem. Online diarists identified several uses, gratifications, and functions of their online diaries. Diarists saw their writing as reflecting on life, as enabling them to keep in touch with others, as helping them feel included, and helping them develop their opinions. They also used their diaries to vent emotions, to archive self-experiences, and to receive responses from others. Online diarists most identified their online diaries with confessionals, autobiographies, and memoirs, and identified their online diaries least as promotional or creative forms of expression. The participants were also likely to include personal information, such as real name, introspective biography, and personal disclosures on their online diary and indicated that they write out of habit and think about their online diary before and after writing in it. Responses for self-audience orientation questions indicated that online diarists construct their identity through writing but responses from the audience were also important to them. Questions assessing the levels of development in online relationships indicated that relationships are taking place through online diaries and these relationships are characterized by high levels of breadth, depth, and understanding. Differences across different scales for self-esteem and age were also found. Generally, respondents with low self-esteem indicated that they use their online diary for identity construction and to feel included or liked. Respondents with low self-esteem were also more likely to hide their offline identity in cyberspace and included personal information with less frequency than those with high self-esteem. Those with higher self-esteem were more oriented towards their community of readers, had larger networks of readers, shared their online diary with people offline, and said they understood their readers more. Older online diarists tended to use their diaries for more personal functions, like gaining self-efficacy, while those who are younger were more likely to use their online journal to keep in touch or get advice from others. Additionally, those who are older constructed their identity more through writing and those who are younger are more focused on their readers and a perceived audience community. The younger online diarists were more likely to change or adapt their online diary content for their readers, and their relationships with their readers were characterized with more breadth and understanding. The online diary seems to act as a management tool for satisfying needs for connection and autonomy that are normally in tension. The online diarist also said that they have developed relationships through online diaries, indicating that communication through online diaries is not superficial or based on anonymity. The online diary is evidence that there can be developed relationships as well as personal expression through Computer-Mediated Communication.
Arts and Sciences Honors Program, Ohio State University
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