Blogging is proving itself to be more than a fad that will disappear the way of a Betamax video cassette. If you’re younger than about 40, you probably don’t even know what Betamax is, but that’s the point. Blogs seem to be here to stay and serve a variety of purposes. The book Julie & Julia, started as a blog by Julie Powell, the author who undertook to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s cookbook in 365 days. She blogged each day about the experience. The blog turned into a book and the book into a movie starring Meryl Streep who received an Oscar nomination for her performance.
Most blogs don’t become famous or make money, but still we blog. And neuroscience research is starting to enlighten us on the benefits and drawbacks.
Blogging may have some psychological benefits, according to research published by the American Physiological Association in January 2012. This study involved 161 high school students, mostly girls with an average age of 15. All the teens in the study had difficulty making friends or relating to friends before the study. The subjects were asked to blog and were specifically instructed to write about their personal difficulties. This could have opened them up to cyberbullying or other negative feedback, but almost all of the responses to the subjects’ messages were positive and supportive.
As a result, the subjects’ self-esteem improved as did the number of positive social behaviors. Social anxiety and emotional distress decreased. The changes were significant and were greater than for teens who did nothing or kept personal diaries. For years we have heard about the benefits of journaling or keeping a personal diary. The concept behind journaling is that you are able to synthesize your thoughts.
Studies have shown other benefits, as well, such as a reduction in test anxiety from writing down your thoughts before the test. Of course, blogging is more than a personal diary or journal. Blogging enables not just free expression but also easy communication with others. The bloggers in the study were told to write about their personal difficulties and to solicit comments. The researchers noted that although cyberbullying and online abuse are always a possibility, almost all responses to the participants’ messages in the study were positive and supportive in nature.
I find it intriguing to see the powerful, positive social impact that can be provided by use of the Internet. Blogging can be a way to learn how to communicate. It starts with something familiar, journaling, and makes it social, but in a safe way. The participants in the study started to feel more capable of communicating with their friends. Pretty powerful stuff. Even more so now that I’ve blogged about it.