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.)