If you do a quick search online for online journal, LiveJournal will probably be one of the first search results. The gut reaction would be to use it as your journal since it is obviously so popular. And yes, it is very, very popular.

For most users, however, I would discourage the use of LiveJournal for your personal diary or journal. This isn’t because it isn’t a great service. It is just because it is a social journal and blogging website and not specifically designed for privacy. And as I have mentioned, if keeping your personal journal personal isn’t important to you, this probably isn’t the website for you.

In the words of Wikipedia:

“LiveJournal provides an option intended to reduce the chances of search engines indexing a journal; however, the only way to make it completely impossible for such indexing to occur is setting the entry security to “friends only” or higher when first posting the entry. If an entry is first posted publicly, and then edited to reflect a higher security level, it may have already been indexed by a search engine in the time between the security edit. The popular “friends only” security option, which has since been adopted by Xanga and MySpace, hides a post from the general public so that only those on the user’s friends list can read it. Some users keep all their posts friends-only (except for a single post explaining that the journal is friends-only). LiveJournal also allows users to create custom user groups within their group of friends to further restrict who can read any particular post, and to allow easy reading of subsets of a user’s friends list.

LiveJournal additionally has a “private” security option which allows users to make a post that only the poster can read, thus making their LiveJournal a private diary rather than a blog. It is also possible to choose a default security setting for one’s journal, so that all entries are posted at that security level by default even if one forgets to alter the security setting at the time of posting.

Users may restrict who can comment on their posts in addition to who has the ability to read their posts. Comments on a given entry may be allowed from anyone who can read the entry or restricted. Commenting may be restricted by disabling commenting altogether or by screening comments. Screened comments are visible only to the original posters until the journal owner approves the comment. These restrictions can be applied to just anonymous users, users who aren’t listed as a friend, or everyone. The IP address of commenters can be logged as well if the journal owner wishes to enable it.

An option allows users to hide their ‘friend of’ list from public view, but leaves the list visible to the user. In this case, only the friends list is shown. When ‘friend of’ is allowed, journal accounts who have friended the user and who are also friended are listed in neither ‘friend of’ nor ‘friend’, but rather a third category, ‘mutual friends’. This was eventually made a separate option, like the ‘friend of’ list, and reworded so that the lists would have to be selected to include them in a profile, rather than to select an option to remove them.

LiveJournal lists that users can hide communities from their profile page by not friending them (friended communities are ‘watched’) and by either banning the community from posting in their journal (which has no effect since they cannot anyway, but does remove them from the ‘member of’ list) or by removing the ‘friend of’ list, which removes the ‘member of’ list in addition to the ‘friend of’ list.

LiveJournal allows paid account users to change privacy settings on past entries in bulk. Basic and plus accounts do not have an official web-based method, and normally must manually change such settings one by one; some third party clients, such as Livejournal Visibility Changer, provide this functionality for non-Paid users.”

In other words, you can keep all of your entries private, but you had better know what you are doing. The consequence if you don’t isn’t just your entries being open to the public, even worse, they will probably get indexed by search engines. That means when your mother-in-law Googles her name, she just might see that scathing journal entry you wrote about her.

If you are familiar with the service, you can probably get it to work the way you want to. If not, I would encourage you to stick to a journal that is private by default.