Blogs are everywhere - increasingly, the place where young people go to bare their souls, to vent, to gossip. And often they do so with unabashed fervor and little self-editing, posting their innermost thoughts for any number of Web surfers to see.
There is a freedom in it, as 23-year-old Allison Martin attests: "Since the people who read my blog are friends or acquaintances of mine, my philosophy is to be totally honest - whether it's about how uncomfortable my panty hose are or my opinions about First Amendment law," says Martin, who lives in suburban Chicago and has been blogging for four years.
Some are, however, finding that putting one's life online can have a price. A few bloggers, for instance, have been fired for writing about work on personal online journals. And Maya Marcel-Keyes, daughter of conservative politician Alan Keyes, discovered the trickiness of providing personal details online when her discussions on her blog about being a lesbian became an issue during her father's recent run for a U.S. Senate seat in Illinois (he made anti-gay statements during the campaign).
Experts say such incidents belong to a growing trend in which frank outpourings online are causing personal and public dramas, often taking on a life they wouldn't have if the Web had not come along and turned individuals into publishers.
Some also speculate that more scandalous blog entries - especially those about partying and dating exploits - will have ramifications down the road.
"I would bet that in the 2016 election, somebody's entry will come back to bite them," Steve Jones, head of the communications department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, says, referring to thefacebook.com, a networking site for college students and alumni that is something of a cross between a yearbook and a blog.
More traditional blog sites - which allow easy creation of a Web site with text, photos and often music - include Xanga, LiveJournal and MySpace. And they've gotten more popular in recent years, especially among the younger set.
Surveys completed in recent months by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that nearly a fifth of teens who have access to the Web have their own blogs. And 38 percent of teens say they read other people's blogs.
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