Is blogging good for us?

According to some researchers, blogging might be good for us.

Self-medication may be the reason the blogosphere has taken off. Scientists (and writers) have long known about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. But besides serving as a stress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery. A study in the February issue of the Oncologist reports that cancer patients who engaged in expressive writing just before treatment felt markedly better, mentally and physically, as compared with patients who did not.

Scientists now hope to explore the neurological underpinnings at play, especially considering the explosion of blogs. According to Alice Flaherty, a neuroscientist at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, the placebo theory of suffering is one window through which to view blogging. As social creatures, humans have a range of pain-related behaviors, such as complaining, which acts as a “placebo for getting satisfied,” Flaherty says. Blogging about stressful experiences might work similarly.

OK, I can buy that. Lots of blogs that I read seem to fit that bill. But I think things are different in many cases, especially in Anglican-land. I fail to see how bile-filled vitriolic hate-mongering tirades could be “therapeutic” either for author or reader. (Did I just make my feelings clear there?) Maybe there’s another way to phrase this. Blogging could be good for us. For Christians, blogging should be good for us.

Sadly, I think blogging is often more of the problem than the solution. Bloggers read one another’s stuff and start nasty debates. Readers imagine that blogs describe the totality of Christian experience, since bloggers seldom write about the quotidian life of a parish community and its ministries.

For bloggers, there’s always a bit of temptation to write inflammatory stuff — whether you’re on the right or the left. It’s the one-two punch writing that tends to attract links, traffic, and notice. I can tell you that on this blog, I’ve tried very hard to resist this kind of writing — and writing to attract traffic — and I like how I feel about this blog more than some earlier, crankier blogging I had done.

What do you think? Is blogging good for us? Is blog reading good for us? I do sometimes feel like this blog is akin to me driving a Hummer whilst I complain about global warming. I’d be interested to hear any thoughts…

(Photo from here.)

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3 Responses

  1. I’ve found on balance that both blogging and blog-reading have been good for me. Even before I started getting my select audience of discerning readers, I found blogging helpful in a number of ways. I’ve always written as a way of getting clear on what I think, and blogging helps that, as well as providing a way of getting clear sometimes on how I feel (something I find the philosophy journals are less keen on knowing about). Now that I do have readers, I have a sense of community with people who may not always give the same answers I do but at least reassure me that I’m not the only one interested in my questions. Through my blog I’ve known the support of prayer at important times.

    As for blog-reading, though, I do find that a 21st-century version of “custody of the eyes” is crucial. There are lots of blogs — right, left, and center — that I can’t read without danger to my soul. (Sounds pretentious, but you know what I mean.) There are other blogs that I can read, but I dare not look at the comments. But there are other blogs that are unambiguously good to read, blogs that teach me, challenge me, entertain me, or inspire me.

  2. MadPriest says:

    I’m easier with the bile than you. But then I come from a social background where shouting at each other followed by drinking together down the pub was the way you did things.

    I think that one of the primary reasons for blogging is that it satisfies a person’s need for their voice to be heard. There is also a belief, right or wrong, that you might just change things. By the way professional commentators and decision makers diss bloggers I would guess there must be an element of truth in this.

  3. Phil Groom says:

    I confess to being a very new blogger: only launched the Christian Bookshops Blog last month… and I’m lovin’ the interaction it’s already created, allowing me, other Christian booksellers, our customers, publishers and suppliers to bounce ideas off one another.

    Whether it’s good for me — probably too early to say. It’s certainly keeping me busy and my mind is constantly buzzing with ideas as I go through the day: hey, must blog that!

    Just gotta hope that in the end it generates more light than heat…

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