Tuesday, April 8, 2008

blogger beware

It seems everyone with a blog is linking to a certain article in The New York Times, "In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop." NYT even claims that it's the most blogged-about article in the "technology" section of their site. Several known (though not to me) bloggers have died within the past months, and some have reported depression-like symptoms of sleeplessness and appetite problems. But do the symptoms - and deaths - of a few people point to a larger problem?

To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style.
I really can't see how we can examine what happened to a few people and say with any degree of definitiveness, See? Blogging will be the death of you! What other lifestyle factors might have figured in to the deaths of Russell Shaw and Marc Orchant, the two mentioned in the article?What about other jobs that have "dangers of work style?" Go here to read about America's most dangerous professions.

There have certainly been studies that examined a link between suicide rates and specific types of employment, and there are some stastically signicant rates of suicide for white male physicians, black male guards, and white female artists. However, no study has been able to convincingly show that if someone takes a specific job, it's more likely that she will die.

It would certainly be difficult, though not impossible, to conduct a study on the prevalence of depressive symptoms for bloggers. The difficulty lies in the fact that bloggers, although they're usually white males, can come from all aspects of life. The study would have to specifically focus on those who blog as their primary profession or means of financial support. I'm sure we'll see something about this in a psychological research journal within the next few years.

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