September 14, 2004

blogging: bad for you?

According to this week's New Scientist, a study has shown that people who keep regular diaries are less healthy than those who don't. The obvious question is does this apply to blogs too?

I've had a blog for a couple of years and I haven't noticed any deterioration in health, but then I've kept diaries on and off much of my life. And the study does seem to concur with my observations of my fellow users of LiveJournal – blogging certainly does appear to be linked to depression, especially in teenagers.

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  1. In my experience, many people with depression want to talk about it, but find that difficult face to face. Diaries and blogs and journals are perhaps a way to share their feelings at a more depersonalised level. My point is that the causality may be the other way around: depression may cause journalling, rather than vice versa.

    14 Sep 2004, 10:09

  2. I'd feel inclined to agree with Max regarding causality. Does the New Scientist article make reference to whether they were studying simply physical health, or did they include mental health in the study too?

    14 Sep 2004, 10:38

  3. I don't have my copy handy right now, but I think it was just physical health. Only the correlation was studied; there was no attempt to determine the causality.

    14 Sep 2004, 10:40

  4. I don't remember my teenagae diairies making me depressed but I would imagine that too much introspection is bad for anybody. Perhaps the conclusions of the New Scientist study is simply because people who blogged constantly were overly attached to their screens; didn't get fresh air, drank copious amounts of soft drinks and coffee and blogged in the dark till the small hours :)

    14 Sep 2004, 11:38

  5. Totally agree with Max's thoughts on the 'Depression' front. Maybe it is more noticable because it is such a good media for depressed people to 'talk'. I do wonder what will happen if someone openly blogged about suicidal thoughts – is that Warwick 'Nightline'/counselling service connected up blog-wise or will it be reliant on fellow friends/colleagues to notice and respond? There was a lot of kerfuffle about that case where a chat room was used for these thoughts – and 'was the 'responsibility to intervene/do something' with the fellow bods in the chat room at the time or with the host(s)'. But I digress a little, sorry…

    On a physical health front – I think what Hannah says certainly sounds logical as to what the study could have been focussed on. Blogging coming into the 'always on the Internet, or gaming' activities instead of something more physical and/or outside, that health groups are worried about.

    14 Sep 2004, 12:05

  6. On the other hand, blogging is more 'outward' than keeping a diary. When you keep a blog, you reasonably expect and desire for it to be read – after all, blogs are published online. Hence, bloggers are more likely to be over-optimistic, than greatly depressed. It's when they stop blogging that you should get worried.

    14 Sep 2004, 13:12

  7. The New Scientist report only mentioned "diaries" – I don't know if they included blogs in that, and I suspect not. The initial thought behind my blog entry was to wonder if blogging would turn out to have the same association.

    In response to She's point, I'm sure someone must have thought about what our responsibilities are in respect of students who post suicidal thoughts on their blogs, in much the same way as we must have thought about how to deal with students expressing homicidal thoughts, posting nude photos and copyright material, making sexist/racist/homophobic remarks and generally slagging each other off, resulting in what I imagine will be a steady stream of requests from other students to delete entries on such students' blogs.

    14 Sep 2004, 14:01

  8. We will be linking from the home page to the new T&C's soon. They can be seen here. They do specifically say that we do not specifically monitor the blogs and if you have a problem, you should contact the right people, not just assume they have read your blog.

    14 Sep 2004, 14:06

  9. They look good. Out of curiosity, who gets sent problems reported via the "report a problem button" (which I assume is coming real soon)?

    14 Sep 2004, 14:38

  10. Report a problem is being done right now and it will probably go to the email address I think.

    14 Sep 2004, 16:15

  11. Hmm…I've given up reading my best mates blog, mainly cos it is fairly depressing and in the last 3 entries she wrote the best part of 10,000 words. Oh well, she's gonna be here next year, so yay! Wonder if she'll keep up the blogging all that time? About the Warwick blogs thing, it seems a lot more open, and like really easy to fins/read someone elses blog, which would kinda put me off writing anything personal there. I'll stick to Blogger, not that I've written anything serious there for a while, after all, IMHO, personal stuff is what friends are for, not what randomers are for.


    14 Sep 2004, 22:32

  12. Robert O'Toole

    Warwick Blogs is unique in having sophisticated privacy controls. The blogger is in control of who can read and comment on the entries. If they want to restrict them to a small group they can do so. If they want the whole world to view their entry, that's easy too. We will also be enhancing these controls further. As far as I know, Blogger doesn't have that, and has no plans to develop along these lines. We may have the world's most advanced system.

    15 Sep 2004, 22:29

  13. You are right about access thing, but at the same time, what is used to impose the restrictions? I ahven't acctually looked, but I'm gonna guess its a username/password type thing, which is fine if you only want to limit people at Warwick viewing, but what about for the people who aren't at Warwick that you want to give access to it?


    15 Sep 2004, 23:05

  14. blogs uses warwick's IT services login and authentication system. This is something that I've thought about before and i think briefly discussed – giving access to specific people who don't have warwick usercodes. Forums can do this, I don't see why blogs can't :-)
    I believe that warwick's blogs system is very advanced, but the next system is to get it to play nicely with the rest of the world (external trackback, external users).

    15 Sep 2004, 23:47

  15. Warwick Blogs' privacy controls are in no way unique – they're no more sophisticated than the controls LiveJournal has had for three or four years now. I agree that they're a vital feature, but given that the default is world readable, I wonder how many people will bother to set each entry to something different.

    I don't think it would be technically difficult to add a privacy category for external single sign on users, like forums has, but at the moment we don't give those out to just anyone so I'm not certain how useful it would be.

    16 Sep 2004, 10:05

  16. Privacy would work with the external SSO users. However, the big question is, do we give students the right to create general external SSO users? I don't think so. It would be nice if they could of course create their own external users that just worked for blogs. This is not on the horizon just yet though.

    16 Sep 2004, 14:58

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