Ghost Sites of the Web

Web 1.0 history, forgotten web celebrities, old web sites, commentary, and news by Steve Baldwin. Published erratically since 1996.

January 07, 2008

Can Blogging Actually Kill You?

Can Blogging Actually Kill You?The New York Times has a short but interesting article triggered by the much-publicized heart attack of Om Malik, who runs the popular GigaOm Blog (note: I have been linked to by Om and consider him an online friend, although we've never actually spoken or even e-mailed each other).

As the article notes, being a successful Blogger means being a one-man (or woman), "twenty-four by seven content machine" in an environment wherein there is no fixed publishing deadline. Instead one is in a constant race with competitors (many of whom may be in different time zones) for link-worthy posts. Add the pressure to "monetize" one's pages and to publish frequently enough so that unforgiving Google (which counts newer pages as more significant than old ones) keeps you spidered every hour or so and you've got a prescription for a heart attack. I don't even need to mention how Blogging can reduce your intake of fresh air or Vitamin D through sunlight; the average American only spends 10 minutes outdoors and I'd imagine that the average Blogger only spends about a minute outdoors every two days.

One of my online buddies used to drink two gallons of diet cola each day as he created his online content, smoked a pile of cigarettes and continuously inhaled laser toner fumes. He's still alive after years of Blogging but another good friend, Steve Gilliard, died before he was 40. I can't say that Blogging killed Steve but it sure didn't help his health any. What I can say is that when you're Blogging in a conversational way, i.e. via the "comment" function or in a non-Blogging environment such as a Bulletin Board, your adrenaline levels spike and ebb violently during the day and night. Flame wars (which can be highly addictive) play havoc with your serotonin levels and sleep habits, which everybody knows is bad for you. Add to this the kind of substances (legal and perhaps non-legal) that you have to consume to stay "in the Blogging zone" (a zone slightly to the East of total Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and it's obvious that Blogging isn't just dangerous: it's a killer with the power to take out an entire generation.

I suppose one can make an argument, Freakonomics-style, that Blogging may have saved as many as it's killed. After all, when you're Blogging you're not likely crash your car into a pole or be run down by a bicycle messenger. But the same could be said for any activity that keeps you off the streets and roads.

I firmly believe that as we enter what techno-optimist Bill Gates calls "our second digital decade," we'll learn enough about the long term effects of our increased dependence on technology to scare us to death. The larger question is whether these revelations will be sufficient to cause many to rethink their total immersion in cyberspace and follow the course of Jennifer Ringley, who at the peak of her cyber-fame chucked it all and disappeared back into the analog world.

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