Journaling Together to Build Relationships and for Self-reflection

This post is part of where we’ll explore how technology can change our perspective by writing and novel products every week this year.

6/50

Living in the city surrounded by more people than people would have met in past lifetimes can ironically be the . We brush shoulders, but never share them. We smile at each other, but never at the joy or sadness that lies behind it.

In the transience of cities and the hustle and bustle of getting ahead, connecting with others and ourselves falls by the wayside. It’s not until we’re wanting dinner with a friend that we realize most of them are only acquaintances. At the same time, reflecting on our life seems like an unnecessary detour from “living our best life.” It’s not until we are burnt out that we realized that our “achievements” didn’t bring us any closer to our joy.

Creating deep connection and understanding our life’s purpose takes time — something that we’ve been conditioned to feel is lacking today.

The good news is that these two things are interconnected. In sharing our story and responding to another’s, we crystallize what matters to us, while simultaneously build empathy for one another.

Ournal

Ournal helps you learn about yourself and connect with others by providing a space for intimate reflections through writing and responding to journals with a partner which reduces loneliness and prevents burn out.

1:1 Relationships

The hardest thing about keeping a journal is taking time out of your day to reflect. Ournal makes journaling a habit through human accountability via relationship.

In Ournal, you are paired with a stranger, and everyday you both swap daily self reflection. By pairing you with a stranger, Ournal creates a safe space to share honest thoughts since they don’t know who you are. In swapping your reflection, you get the satisfaction and drive of being acknowledged.

On days when you are happy, it will be easy to write, but on the hardest days, the days that are the most important, being encouraged through accountability and support will keep you strong.

App design pays homage to conversation bubbles. The bubbles overlap to look like collages, pointing to the collaborative nature of relationships. Color surrounding the entry expresses the entry’s mood. Emoji in the response expresses emotional reaction.

Natural Growth in Time

Length of time spent with another is one of the strongest indicator for relationship strength. Your relationship with your journal partner is persistent for at least a week, but can be extended indefinitely. Ournal start with a week since it’s important to get to know someone before writing them off. At the same time, people understand each other at different levels — making sure you have the right partner increases the likelihood of an honest conversation.

Time itself, however, is only a vehicle for growth: a relationship that is static is a dead one.

In the beginning, a journal entry length is given a limit. This lowers the expectation of an entry and makes it easier to get started. More importantly, by making it short, the writer is forced to concentrate on the most important part and understanding their reflection, while at the same time, making the content approachable for the reader.

Like real relationship, trust and empathy has to be built.

The concept of journaling can be overwhelming. By creating a restriction, the user feels more free.

As the partners get to know each other better, however, Ournal grows with them. Over time, trust will build, and the partners will naturally want to write more, share media, and even reveal their identity.

In the beginning anonymity is beneficial since it allows the writer to be themselves and prevents subconscious bias and prejudice from the reader. However, as they begin to know each other, anonymity becomes a negative since it reduces the human element of the story. Similarly, media like photos and audio brings reality and richness to a story that words cannot provide.

Hearing each other’s story over time matures relationship, cultivating trust and increasing the richness of the shared stories. But in the beginning, limiting content helps focus the reflection on the most important thing, rather than the detail.

As the relationship matures and the journal partners become more comfortable, entries naturally get richer and a deeper bond is formed.

Response

More than just hearing each other story, it’s important to respond. Just as active listening encourages speakers to share, responding to another’s journal encourages the writer to write more and foster the relationship. For the writer, the reader’s response can give the them an outsider’s perspective. For the reader, responding helps them build empathy. It’s easy to breeze through a story, but it takes longer to appreciate and take it to heart.

Interestingly, this also means that as the relationship grows, the journal becomes more of a winding conversation. Unlike a traditional journal, Ournal is not static. While writing alone helps expose an individual’s reflection on a story, having a conversation takes that further by providing another lens to view it from.

As we start to trust someone, we don’t look for them to just validate our story, but rather speak truth to us.

Further Considerations

The digital nature of the relationship built in Ournal makes it less visceral. It would be interesting to explore how this relationship can be visualized to substantiate the intangible relationship, similar to how an old photo album visualizes a friendship and deepens the relationship when reminiscing. For example: marking down significant moments in the their life can help show how much the two partners have been through together.

Users can tag certain days with life events that can be retraced later.

Lastly, in order for Ournal to work, the entire network has to feel like a safe space. Figuring out how to weed out toxic content early will be an important factor. Additionally, thinking about ways to help those being abused or having issues that require professional attention is important for the safety of everyone involved. In both cases, thinking about how to do it in a manner that increases the feeling of safety rather than the feeling of restriction is critical.

TL;DR

As the perceived speed of life increases, the time we feel we have to reflect and make real connection disappears. Journaling encourages us to reflect and find meaning in our life. More importantly, sharing our story with another not only keeps us accountable, but also helps us create deeper bonds. Relationships are meaningful when we can truly hear each other and grow together. In doing so, we remind ourselves the meaning of our lives, reducing loneliness and burn out.

“Anima Technica Vacua” — Hans Urs von Balthasar

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