Thursday, May 29, 2008

why we blog

Our blogging colleagues Jennifer Rose and David Leffler (Staring at Strangers) have posted two interesting -- and complementing and contradictory -- articles on why people blog.

The first is an article from
Scientific American. You can almost hear the author caution in her best lab coat voice: "Now. Do not read too much into this." She then tells us that scientists have known for years that writing has a therapeutic benefit in coping with stress and, perhaps, physiological benefits, as well. In other words, writing just makes us feel better. I fall into that category. I have experienced far more endorphin production in writing a sonnet than I ever have in sweating my way to Nirvana on the exercise bike.

But that is simply a benefit of writing. What makes the blog special? The article points out that blogging adds an additional element to mere writing. A blogger actively seeks and finds solace in the blogosphere -- forming a community.

If that seems a bit high-falutin' for what we do, the second article from this past week's Sunday
New York Times Magazine seems like a visitation from Oz. The article is an angst-ridden cri de coeur by Emily Gould, a twentysomething (26, if I have added correctly) former editor of what can politely be called a privacy-stealing "celebrity" blog. She relates a far too-detailed slide into obsessive blogging in both her professional and personal life.

But even we small-time operators will recognize her comment on why we write comments to be read by strangers:

No wonder we're ready to confess our innermost thoughts to everyone: we're constantly being shown that the surest route to recognition is via humiliation in front of a panel of judges.

Or this observation:

[T]hey like the idea that there's a place where a record of
their existence is kept ***. In real life, we wouldn't invite any passing stranger into these situations, but the remove of the Internet makes it seem O.K.

Now and then I run into a comment on a blog that dove tails with an idea I have been mulling over. This matter of why we blog just happens to be one.

I have noticed that I have become slightly obsessed with my blogging activities. I discuss it with friends. I hand out the address to strangers. I will often stay up late to watch my scheduled publication appear. And then I wait for the joy of the comments -- to be able to talk with people as they react to what I wrote or to share some new idea that I have missed. In other words, the blog has reduced me to the maturity level of an 8-year old girl.

Endorphins? Probably. Therapy? Certainly. Community? Without doubt.

But for all of my critical comments, I think Emily Gould makes a great point that we record our thoughts as a sign that we exist -- perhaps it is the essence of an existential universe. And we do it in blogs in a far more humane way than the slash and burn comments that can be found on many Mexican message boards.

But I blog for an additional reason. I have a very selective memory. This blog has given me a great opportunity to go back and look at my thoughts about moving to Mexico -- and to compare them to my thoughts now. Interestingly, the review often causes me to change my current plans.

And, in turn, the process causes me to include more open and honest recording of my thoughts.I will never publish the type of private information Emily seems to glory in.

But if any of you wish to publish the deep dark corners of your heart, I remind you of a little embroidered pillow that adorned Alice Roosevelt Longworth's couch: "If you don't have anything good to say, sit next to me."


Anonymous said...

selective memory? is that what you call senior moments? i guess there's a difference but i definitely have many of the latter. when i turned 50 one of my friends gave me a mug that says "seniora citizen" with a picture of 2 maracas and the phrase, "i can still shake my maracas!" cute!

until i started reading andee's blog i never even knew such a thing existed. i am not the most computer savvy person around-but sure am glad i discovered them.

interesting that you mentioned the word, "solace." if i ever move to mexico and start a blog i will call it "seeking solace in the sun." now, don't any of you go and steal my title ;-)

steve it looks like both of us are early birds and night owls. i'd better get to bed.

hasta manana.
seniora teresa

Todd said...

I think it all started when I was quite small.

It can be summed in in one phrase.

"Look Ma, no hands"


Steve Cotton said...

teresa -- It is strange that you mention Andee's blog. She intoduced me to the concept -- and then urged me to start my own. I am glad she did.

Todd -- So, you think there may be a bit of exhibitionism involved? I never would have guessed that -- from either one of us. Excuse me. I think I see an empty spotlight.

jennifer rose said...

Now look at what you've gotten yourself into now, Steve. You just received an invitation to be a guest blogger at .

Send your guest blog post -- about something that Lawyers Like -- to me at

Anonymous said...


i met andee last year after i had been reading her blog for only a short time. after i came back from that first trip to chacala i checked her blog every day. i saw her just a few days before she passed away. it's still hard to believe she's gone.


Theresa in Mèrida said...

I blog for all the money I make when people click on my ads. LOL, at the rate that I am going I will get my first check from google in 2012, just in time for the Mayan calendar to end.
All kidding aside I started to blog for a wide variety of reasons. To keep in touch with friends and family, to express my opinion, because I always wanted to be a columnist like Herb Caen. Oh, and I secretly wish to be offered a book deal, but that is the least reason.
I keep blogging because I have found a community in the blogsphere,and I think I am getting better at my writing as I do more of it.

Anonymous said...

I love the picture. Can't you just hear the juicy gossip Bobby is tellilng Princess Alice? I miss them both.


Steve Cotton said...

Theresa -- I agree with you about the community factor. From the moment I started blogging, I felt I was part of this grand community -- a community that sometimes seems to be made up of the more eccentric members of my familiy (including me).

As for your writing, I enjoy each entry.

This whole business is plain fun. I find myself checking in regularly just to see if anyone has stopped by to chat. Almost like waiting by the mail box for my decoder ring when I was eight.

Steve Cotton said...

teresa -- I know what you mean about missing Andee. I learned a lot from her -- and she is still a part of my life. Whenever I work with the kids at church, I can hear her voice. I am going to try very hard to attend the memorial get-together for her next weekend in Spokane.

Cory said...

I have to comment about your statement:

"I have experienced far more endorphin production in writing a sonnet than I ever have in sweating my way to Nirvana on the exercise bike."

You are hilarious..."sweating my way to Nirvana on the exercise bike"!!!

On the topic, in blogging do we blog hoping to pass on some wisdom or at least our experiences to share the wisdom gained? Is there a grander purpose? Or are we simply vain?

Of course many of my readers are youth and I continually am hoping to influence and guide them to greater wisdom and behavior. So maybe my laptop is pointed in a slightly different direction.


Steve Cotton said...

Cory -- I suspect the two of us have our computers pointed in the same direction. We may merely take slightly different roads. I just came in from the hot tub where I prepared my Sunday school lesson. We will be spending at least the next ten weeks on Proverbs. Mine may be an older group, but we have exactly the same ultimate challenges.

Anonymous said...

uh. interesting post..

Anonymous said...

In my opinion you are mistaken. I can defend the position.