On Blogging

“When I began to make friends, writing was the vehicle. So that in the beginning, writing, like reading, was less a solitary pursuit than an attempt to connect with others. Jhumpa Lahiri

What is the function of blogging, the unspoken motive beyond the desire to inform, rant, or report in all the ways that blogging has given rise to? Laura Gurak suggests one reason, especially for young bloggers, in her study, “The Psychology of Blogging:”

“…the most popular topic among bloggers is “me.… the blur between private (“me”) and public …are truly the most interesting psychological features of blogging.”

In her paper Gurak claims that blogging, like writing therapy, is to a certain extent therapeutic for some individuals. Journaling has been both recommended and reported to be a way to reduce stress and express emotions. A recent report indicates that blogging may also have that effect for teenagers.

In this well-controlled field experiment, adolescents were assigned to one of six separate groups for a period of ten weeks. Two of the groups were asked to blog about their current emotional difficulties, one open to responses and one closed. Two other groups were asked blog about any subject, again one open to responses and one closed. Another group was asked to write freely in a diary, while the sixth group was a no-treatment control.

The results showed that adolescents who blogged about their current difficulties, regardless of the response condition, improved the most on all social-emotional measures and that these effects were maintained two months later in a follow-up assessment.

I suspect there are reasons other than lessening emotional stress why blogging might also be therapeutic. And in a way I continue to find the experience beneficial. Like a classroom assignment, it gives me something to think about and I confess sometimes simply sets the agenda for a few hours.

From the beginning I had always viewed blogging as an intellectual exercise where I had a chance to write something coherent about an issue that mattered to me. After writing it, I sometimes felt good about what I’d done.

I have no interest in Texting, Tweeting or Facebooking. The increasing popularity of theses forms of expression among young adults cannot be taken lightly. According to a recent Pew Internet research report, social networks are starting to replace blogging as the preferred means of communicating for teens and young adults (less than 30 years of age). In 2006 approximately 28% of teens and young adults were said to be bloggers, while a few years later in 2009 the number decreased by half to 14%.

I’ve not read any blogs written by this group but I do know the kind of writing and fragmentary comments on social media sites does little to sustain a habit serious commentary. I also have no idea if this way of communicating to other individuals has any lasting value. Any such account of the effects of social media must remain speculative for now and I’m not one who does much of that.

Note: In order to embark on a new project, Marks in the Margin will take a break from blogging on a regular basis for a while. Postings, if any, will be sparse and intermittent during this period.