For just over a year now I’ve been using the Day One app to keep a journal (diary) on my phone.1 I started out by recording the traveling I was doing; later I started to treat Day One as a kind of private social-media repository too. The way I use Day One hinges on four important differences from the paper journal I used to use:
Data is easier to deal with than paper. A paper journal is irreplaceable if lost and embarrassing if stolen. Copies of my Day One journal live on my computer, phone, and tablet, and all of the various backups thereof—my devices could be totally destroyed and I’d still have my journal. Each of these devices is also password-protected.
It’s ubiquitous. I can write entries from my phone, which is always with me. That means that I can write a short description of what I’m doing while I’m doing it—my previous M.O. was to think, “I should make a note of this later,” and then not do it.
Adding photos is easy. I did have a couple of photos in my paper journal, but they had to be printed out and taped in. Attaching a photo to my Day One journal takes no effort and, again, can happen from anywhere. There is also no practical limit to the number of photos I can include.
Automatic metadata. Day One uses the iPhone’s sensors and some web services to tag each entry with the time, GPS location, current weather, the music playing in iTunes, and your motion activity.2 This seems like a gimmick at first—I don’t think I’ve ever referred back to the “weather” field later—but having this metadata put in automatically saves me from a lot of writing I probably wouldn’t do otherwise.
My entries in Day One fall into two broad categories. Some of them are the kind of diary entries people have been writing forever: I recount interesting things I’ve done, places I’ve been, or people I’ve talked to, and I discuss whatever’s on my mind. The process of writing often helps me to come to some kind of realization or acceptance; just getting the words out is therapeutic.
The other kind of entry I found myself writing—well, making—is more like the ephemeral fluff you’d see on Instagram or Twitter. I do use Instagram but I don’t have any illusions that other people care what my lunch looked like. Now if I’m eating something noteworthy—or if I see anything else that I want to record but not publicize—I just take a photo and add it to my Day One archive.
Day One provides access to Foursquare’s list of businesses and points of interest, so I use Day One as a replacement for Foursquare too: I “check in” at places just by creating a new entry. It doesn’t even need to have text in it; the metadata says where I am and when. There’s no need to broadcast anything to my friends, much less to everyone on the internet.
The same goes for snippets of text. If one of my friends says something funny that I want to record for posterity, I don’t need to cast their comment into the technically- and socially-ambiguous quagmire called Facebook; I can just record it in Day One. (The metadata of where and when this happened is inserted automatically.) I do the same thing if I have an interesting dream, or if I suddenly remember an anecdote that’s worth writing down.
I don’t share my life in public all that often, and when I do I try to make it an honest, meaningful expression of myself. “Posting” the more mundane stuff to Day One instead means that I preserve a lot of memories that would otherwise have just been slowly forgotten.3
I also use the Mac and iPad versions of Day One, but in different ways from the iPhone version. I use the Mac version mostly when I want to write a long entry with a physical keyboard. I use the iPad version if I want to write a long entry and I don’t have my Mac; it’s also the best interface for browsing and reading old entries. ↩︎
Whether you were you stationary, walking, running, riding in a car, etc. (I don’t know who’s making journal entries while they’re running but it’s not me.) ↩︎
Like tears in rain. ↩︎