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NY Times Article Suggests Effects of Blogging = Weight Loss/Gain, Sleep Disorder, Exhaustion, Heart Disease, and Nervous Breakdown

by Tom Johnson on Apr 6, 2008
categories: blogging technical-writing

One of my readers sent me a link to today's New York Times article on blogging titled "In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Til They Drop."

I find it touching that someone would think of me while reading the article. :) Actually, I read a sneak peak of the article in yesterday's Blog Herald. It made me think hard about how much I've been posting lately.

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.

Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.


“I haven't died yet,” said Michael Arrington, the founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, a popular technology blog. The site has brought in millions in advertising revenue, but there has been a hefty cost. Mr. Arrington says he has gained 30 pounds in the last three years, developed a severe sleeping disorder and turned his home into an office for him and four employees. “At some point, I'll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen.”

“This is not sustainable,” he said.

The article exposes the negative physical effects of blogging not often mentioned -- sleep disorders, weight loss/gain, nervous breakdown, and heart disease. In the addictive drive to write more and more posts, the blogger often embraces an unhealthy physical lifestyle.

My Response

If I didn't have blogging and podcasting as my hobbies, I would probably lead a more active lifestyle, would go to sleep earlier, and might be more productive in all my other endeavors.

Anytime that any hobby, be it blogging or basketball, begins to hinder your health, stop posting/playing so much. Unless you're making a living from it, no hobby should detract from your mental/social/physical health.

On the other hand, blogging and podcasting energizes me and makes me enthusiastic about life and my career. Since my wife also blogs, our blogs have given us a lot to talk about.

Blogging gives me a sounding board and a space to publish my thoughts. The rewards of blogging are numerous -- interacting with others, engaging in exchanges about the latest trends, thinking analytically about the day's events. It makes life a lot more engaging.

Most of all, blogging gives me a space to write and allows me to express the creative side of me that is often left dormant during the day with technical writing.

A Solution?

How can one put aside the negative effects of blogging? I'm not a model example of what I'll recommend, but here are 5 tips I'm trying to implement:

  1. Do the most important things first. Whatever your priorities are, make sure you do them before you begin blogging. This is a principle, I think, common to Getting Things Done and Covey's 7 Habits. If you have a goal to track your budget, get exercise, clean your house, read scriptures, play with your kids, or finish a project, make sure you do that before you start typing that post. You may find that, after finishing what's important, you lose the energy to write the post. It works the other way too: if you expend energy to write a post at the neglect of what's more important, you lose energy to do what's important. Don't let your priorities get out of whack.
  2. Always give priority to sleep rather than your blog. If it's past your regular bedtime, click Save and return to the post later. It's always good to give yourself 24 hours of space between writing a post and publishing it anyway. I guarantee that a post written and published in haste late at night often turns into a regret the next morning.
  3. Make your posts shorter. More and more I'm convinced that long posts aren't read. I find myself timing out on most blogs after 1.5 minutes, which matches my own readers' habits as well. If you have a long post, break it up into several posts. Or start alternating long posts with short ones. This method still keeps you in the rhythm of writing without compromising your physical health.
  4. Listen to podcasts while you exercise. If you're so addicted to blogging and podcasting that you can't lift yourself from the computer chair to get some exercise, start listening to podcasts while you exercise. You'll still feel like you're immersed in Web 2.0, and while listening you'll also be generating ideas for new blog posts.
  5. Make other activities more blog-like. Let's say you have a goal to read the scriptures each day, or to track your eating habits each day. You can give each of these activities a blog-like spin. For scriptures, I have a Ning group I created that automatically posts a chapter a day. I add my comments below the chapter/post, and friends I've invited sometimes participate. With weight loss, you could use SparkPeople, which includes online calorie counters, teams, daily posts, and other interactive features, to make it feel like you're engaged in blog-like activity.

Do you have any tips to avoid the physical dark side of blogging?

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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