Journaling in a Digital World

Having even a transcription of an ancestor’s personal journal is a blessing to any family historian. It gives us a picture of the person and the world surrounding him that no amount of vital records can provide. Should we also have letters and photos along with the journal, ecstasy ensues.

Considering how precious we find these gifts from the past, what are we leaving for future generations? Today’s technology allows us to easily capture not only words and photos, but also audio and video. And, since so many of us are carrying camera phones with us at all times, there’s no excuse for missing the magic moments in our family’s lives. The iPhone, iPod Touch and many Android phones include cameras that shoot both photos and video and there are many journaling apps available to capture and preserve the events of our lives – both the normal, everyday things and the very special ones.

We are already sharing much of these events as status updates, photos and videos posted to Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites. This may be a great way to keep in touch with family and friends, but not the best place to document your world for future generations. Fortunately apps coming on the market today do just that – capture your social networking content into a personal journal. One good example is the Momento app [iPhone – $1.99]. It not only gives you a platform to enter your thoughts and photos, but you can also connect it to your favorite social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Swarm – Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo and LastFM coming soon) to automatically pull in your status/activity there. Your content can be set for automatic backup to iCloud. My first thought was this was carrying things a bit far, but I quickly realized the merits of the idea. In today’s busy world, the less duplication of effort involved in documenting our days, the more likely it is we’ll actually do it. And, having an app like this on a small device that’s always nearby means we’ll be able to capture the sights and sounds of those moments.

Several journal apps also have desktop versions allowing us to synchronize and archive journaling content safely. I use Day One [iOS – $4.99 & Mac – $9.99]. I have it on my iPhone to capture moments as they happen and on my iPad and Mac to write longer stories documenting my family – past and present. Day One also saves entries on iCloud so they are accessible on any of my devices. Entries are organized by date, but also supports tags which can be used to organize your content by topic so you can select, display and export selected entries.

Today’s digital journals may not be as attractive as the leather-bound journals of old, but they will capture a much broader picture of our lives. A journal is a personal thing and the first step is finding a journal app that fits your style. It might be a desktop app or even a “notebook” on your mobile device. Whatever it is, it will become a treasure for future generations. You just need to get started!

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