Last time, I mentioned my “discovery” that passionate user communities exist everywhere, not only for high-tech or trendy products. We sometimes find these communities of passion in unexpected places. As I searched the Web a bit for further activity about Filofax, I uncovered a surprising number of blogs and sites. One that struck me in particular is a blog called “philofaxy”, which, as the name tells us, is all about the love people feel for their Filofax.
As my curiosity about this “love my Filofax” phenomenon grew, I did a quick search for articles. Some of the press material and blog posts I found led me to a deeper understanding of people’s feelings. Somewhat to my surprise, the emotion around the object has little to do with the item itself, and much to do with individuals and their stories of identity.
Among the items I discovered was a piece by Virginia Heffernan, entitled “What is lost with digital datebooks”, which appeared in the International Herald Tribune on May 9. You can read it here.
Reading this article, I learned that a Filofax is much more than a personal organizer and datebook. It is a place to forge one’s self, to craft one’s personal story, and to dream. It is not so much about what this tool does, but rather about how it makes us feel. As Heffernan writes: “Carrying a Filofax, with all the inserts that came standard with it, made me feel substantial, cliquish and secretive. British. Like a person who keeps close at hand many bankers’ private lines and Mandarin phrases and measurements for handmade shoes.”
The Filofax can be a place to discover and re-invent oneself: “Filofax was also a place for plot arcs, self-invention and self-regulation. It was, in every sense, a diary—a forward-running record, unlike backward-running blogs.”
So, here was another clue. A Filofax is like a diary, something to keep close, a trusted friend who accompanies me on my life journey. The computer and the electronic calendar may represent progress, but they remain mere bland tools, with their weeks and months laid out systematically on the screen. What I saw on the blogs and in the articles showed that the Filofax is far more. What I heard people saying is: “Filofax is a part of me; it’s my diary, my personal story, a symbol of my identity.”
For these aficionados, a Filofax is a tool for reflection, for self-discovery, for self-definition, and for self-expression. To quote Heffernan once more: “The apparatus of the Filofax circumscribed and elevated my identity. It also liberated my imagination by allowing for such elegant expression of it; various sketches and coded notes-to self, in blue ink, pervade the pages of the 2007 book. When I had time on a train or at Starbucks, I used to make lists, often plans for self improvement.”
Filofax may claim to be an organizer, a datebook, or a time management tool. To me, it is successful because it expands people’s minds. It gives them not only a sense of self, but also a sense of possibility.
As I was writing this blog entry, someone called to schedule an appointment. When I switched to my familiar Outlook calendar, it somehow seemed strange, suddenly lacking in personality.
I have never owned a Filofax, but am considering going out to purchase one, if only to see, and perhaps to feel, what all the fuss is about.
Very interesting article – I too have recently stumbled upon the online community of Filofax lovers. Out of all my photos on Flickr, my Filofax pictures are the most viewed – and I only originally uploaded them to find out if a broken one could be fixed (by the way, the broken one is my most viewed pic on Flickr!)!
My Filofax is so personal, a place that holds my ‘life’ – past and future. In a digital diary I can mark an appointment, but I can’t seem to properly ‘plan’ unless I have a paper diary…a place to doodle, make notes, write lists, even sketch out a scenic view. For me, this experience cannot be replicated on a phone, a PDA, a computer, etc…