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Living Life Online

Your life, online.

A growing number of people are transcribing their daily activities, thoughts and deeds onto web pages for all - or none - to read.

They're called "blogs," short for "web logs." And they can offer intimate views inside the head and life of the writer. But the reader isn't the only one to gain knowledge.

Actor Wil Wheaton, who was famously famous as a young actor in the film "Stand By Me" and the TV series "Star Trek: The Next Generation," knows all about it. He started his blog more than two years ago for fun. Now, the site has more than half a million readers each month.

While the readers gain insight into a self-proclaimed wildly-famous actor-turned-formerly-wildly-famous-actor, the greatest insight may be what Wheaton is learning about himself.

"Writing in my web log is really therapeutic for me," he tells CBS News Correspondent Melissa McDermott. "Putting my thoughts into some sort of permanent medium gives me the opportunity to compare them every few months, every year... and kind of see where I am... to see what's important to me, and what isn't important to me."

Wheaton says he began his blog as a way to separate Wil Wheaton, the actor from Wil Wheaton, the person. While fans of his work still flock to his site, he's being read by many who know him only by his web page.

"They're just regular people who have heard that there's this guy who writes about stuff."

Less well-known but just as devoted to telling all on the Internet is Sean Canady, who used to record his frustrations, desires and other deep, personal thoughts in a black, spiral-bound notebook. Two years ago, he gave that up for the wide open spaces of the Internet.

Instead of writing a blog - typically dated musings on various subjects which may carry links to similar blogs - Canady writes an online journal.

He's not alone. One of the largest journal sites - LiveJournal.com - has over a million members.

While the sites are somewhat similar to online bulletin boards or chat rooms, Web journals aren't limited to a specific topic or discussions.

Unlike blogs, online journals are meant to be more like a coffeehouse, where a community regularly gathers, building friendships and connections as they share personal details.

"This diatribe seems to be incensed with morose and depressed sentiments," Canady wrote recently.

He was frustrated over the drudgery of his job and his inability to consistently connect with his friends.

"But I write this with anger, with frustration, with disappointment. I shed no tears. You don't cry over your own funeral pyre."

Canady, a 21-year-old database assistant from Kansas City, Kan., said in an interview he doesn't mind airing his life for the entire world.

"I figure anybody that's reading it cares about who I am and it helps them understand who I am and why I do the things I do," he said.

Plus, he said, writing online helped him overcome his insecurities and allowed him to become more open and confident.

LiveJournal started in 1999 when founder Brad Fitzpatrick wanted a quicker and easier way to update his journal on his personal Web site. He found existing programs inconvenient.

At first, the site was simply a blank sheet, for people to write as if in a regular journal. Later, though, Fitzpatrick added "comments" and "friends" features so entries could be linked to other people's thoughts, ideas and experience.

"It's a great community. You meet a lot of people there and you could browse the whole day and never get bored," said Fitzpatrick, 23, who also started a polling site, freevote.com, but still runs the business and technical aspects of LiveJournal from Portland, Ore.

LiveJournal's popularity has spawned similar sites like DeadJournal.com, uJournal.org and Diaryland.com, which run on the same concept and structure as LiveJournal.

Basic use of LiveJournal is free, but joining requires an invitation from a member. Paid memberships, which run about $2 a month, give users access to faster servers for faster updates, customized icons and graphics and the ability to send text messages to other subscribers through mobile phones.

LiveJournal postings can be kept entirely private or open to all users, or set to be read only by designated friends. Users are identified by aliases or in some cases their real names.

Jennifer Hagen, a 22-year-old student from Goodyear, Ariz., said she loves the "instant gratification" of getting other people's feedback. But she still uses a paper journal to write about anything she doesn't want to share.

Dae-Ho Chung, a 20-year-old student at the University of California, Berkeley, checks his friends' journals at least every other hour, every day.

"I do it just to see if other people's lives are parallel to mine, ... to see if they have experienced things I haven't experienced," he said.

Cheryl Dowling appreciates online journaling if only for the practical advice she gets. Once frustrated by leaks in her bathroom, Dowling turned to LiveJournal and received countless tips on how to fix them.

"It's different when people have the ability to comment on it by giving you another perspective. You can share accomplishments and happiness," said Dowling, a 27-year-old Web designer from Boston.

Mondana Madjdi switched to online journaling exclusively a year ago, largely to improve her writing skills. The 20-year-old student in Olympia, Wash., gets help from reading her friends' pages and other journals on the site - and from soliciting the advice of other users.

"People root you on," she said. "You can't ask for more."

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