Guest Post by Paula L. Silici for Talking Writing
Is blogging making us mentally healthier—or the reverse?
Cyberspace is filled with well-written, thought-provoking blog sites. These bloggers clearly know what they’re doing. As a writer and editor, and especially as a fellow human being, I believe their posts enrich my world and make me proud of my profession.
Yet most of us have visited those “other” blog sites, too. You know the ones I mean: poorly written, poorly punctuated, rife with misspellings, and written by individuals who apparently find it liberating to post every banal detail of every waking moment. And here’s the kicker: most come with illustrative photos.
These “other” blog sites intrigue me. I wonder what motivates this second type of blogger to so publicly exhibit such intimacies. Even when the posts aren’t all that intimate, what would compel someone to while away several hours or more each day sitting at the computer emptying oneself out to an ambiguous audience who may or may not care? There must be a pay-off beyond monetary reward that I have yet to understand.
A sizeable amount of hubris is apparently a blogger necessity. I’m a wary blogger myself, barely touching a toe into the metaphorical whirlpool. I worry about the kind of false comfort this medium offers—especially to young people. Are we truly keeping in touch, or are we actually distancing ourselves farther from the human connections we seek?
I feel we're heading toward the latter, but I’d love to hear what others think. I’d especially like to hear from mental health professionals about the impact of blogging on their patients—positive, negative, or neutral.
Consider the following scenarios, one positive and one negative:
Scenario #1: A blogger I know casually and spoke to last weekend at a writers’ meeting raved about how wonderful blogging is. It thrilled her to know that others were reading her daily posts. It thrilled her even more that she was gaining a growing readership and that many had begun to regularly respond to her posts. Their comments gave her “a high like no other,” she claimed. She ended the conversation by stating that her blog validated her and confirmed her as a person of substance in a deeply profound way. People, she gushed, actually cared about what she had to say. She hoped to someday support her family by writing a successful blog.
All right. There’s something to be said for the dizzying gratification writers feel when a piece evokes an immediate response in others. Professional writers who have suffered the gut-blows of rejections by agents and publishers love the fact that they can now be in control of their work’s destiny. In spite of the current brutal publishing industry, audiences are able to instantly read and respond to an author’s work. This is a good thing, right? A healthy thing.
Then there’s the down side.
Scenario #2: I’ve talked to other bloggers who rarely, if ever, receive comments on their posts. Their reports, of course, aren’t so glowing. Full of hope, they began blogging out of a genuine desire to share with others who they are and what they think and feel. But when nobody responded, the rejection cut deep. One blogger I know, crushed by this experience, quit after only one week in the arena. He later told me he discussed this with his therapist.
There are other scenarios, too. Another blogger writes because, he says, it’s a cathartic, therapeutic experience. He doesn’t care if anyone comments. He simply loves the fact that he’s been provided a “really cool” platform to vent. (He blogs under a pseudonym.)
Oh, yes. And what about those bloggers who publish fictitious “true-life” experiences and post a bogus photo of themselves? Perhaps making up sensational stories that titillate readers is a means of transporting them beyond reality and into a fantasy world where anything and everything is possible. When readers respond to those posts favorably, it’s as if the blogger is given permission, indeed, encouragement, to continue the ruse. Healthy? Unhealthy? Hmmm.
The Internet allows us to visit blog sites anonymously. Hidden in the shadows of cyberspace, we can look through the windows of our monitors and act the voyeur. Blogs allow us into the sometimes outrageous, sometimes shocking, sometimes totally boring lives of others.
But when communicating online, we can no longer touch the person we’re communicating with. We can no longer look them in the eye or hear inflections in their tone of voice or witness the frown or smile on their faces. Yes, photos and videos can be posted; but still, we are once, twice, sometimes thrice removed.
Everyone wants to feel loved and accepted. We all want to feel that our opinions count. Blogging (and for that matter, FaceBook-type sites and Twittering) can provide a certain sense of belonging, a sense of community. Yet who are we kidding here? I know of people who begin first thing in the morning and spend countless hours blogging, reading, posting, and commenting. By doing so, they attempt to perpetuate those warm-fuzzy sensations of community and rightness and well-being. But an addiction is an addiction is an addiction. Any addiction that replaces reality with fantasy is bound to be unhealthy.
I shudder to imagine a lonely world where people no longer gather together in person to discuss issues important to them, or where heated conversations no longer end with a warm handshake or hug. Oh, wait! I-M the psychologist. We just may be there already.
1 hour ago