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Blogging May Cost You Your Life
April 6, 2008 10:03 PM   Subscribe

Blogging May Cost You Your Life NY Times discusses the possible "death by blogging" of two prominent Tech Bloggers, Russell Shaw and Marc Orchant, Blognation. A third, Om Malik of gigaom.com, 41, survived a heart attack in December. I am thinking twice about my late night posts.
posted by doug3505 (56 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
A dyspeptic counterview from Jeff Bercovici at Portfolio.
posted by twsf at 10:08 PM on April 6, 2008


An incredibly sedentary lifestyle mixed with round the clock pressure will kill or sicken people of any occupation.

As a paid blogger, the pressure of my work is leavened by the pressure I put on myself: to make sure I get out of the house for a while here and there, to make sure I get constant exercise and human contact, to make sure I ingest safe amounts of wholesome substances, and to make sure that I remember at the end of the day that it's all just a silly game that we invented to entertain each other, and not worth losing sleep over.

It keeps me from popping my cork, but it also keeps me productive as a writer. If any of those latter imperatives don't occur, I can't be confident that the material I'm turning in reflects my true thoughts and impressions. And if MeFi has taught me anything, it's that this is very important when posting things on the internet, whether one is getting paid for it or not.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 10:14 PM on April 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment.

Are you fucking kidding? Sitting around on the internet is hard work now? Whatever, more likely those heart attacks were caused by the incredible stress of eating a lot of twinkies and sitting in front of a computer all day.

Anyone who thinks blogging is hard work has probably never done a day of real hard work in their lives.
posted by delmoi at 10:15 PM on April 6, 2008 [16 favorites]


Blogging: Extreme Snark.
posted by sdodd at 10:19 PM on April 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hello, world. Read these instructions carefully. There is a keyboard monitor recording your key strokes and enough plastic explosive strapped to the bottom of your chair to make you your very own asshat. In ten seconds, you will begin to blog. You must type 40 words a minute, non-stop, or it's death by whoopie-cushion. Begin now.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:19 PM on April 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


Anyone who thinks blogging is hard work has probably never done a day of real hard work in their lives.

What a dipshit thing to say.

Writing is itself very hard work, however gratifying. Having your writing edited, revised, remixed, and rejected every day is hard work. Coming up with a steady flow of original ideas or angles is hard work. Knowing that as a freelancer, each assignment could be your last-- for completely arbitrary reasons-- is hard work.

In other words, yeah, sometimes the work itself is easy, but you have to re-earn the right to do it almost every day, and the spirit required to do so is what any hard work is all about.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 10:25 PM on April 6, 2008 [5 favorites]


On the other hand, heart disease is the country's hardest working killer. Not to sound glib, but these three bloggers are part of the same sample space as the rest of us, and probably at greater risk due to their age and sedentary lifestyle.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:30 PM on April 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Writing is itself very hard work, however gratifying. Having your writing edited, revised, remixed, and rejected every day is hard work.

Having your writing remixed seems like the definition of non-work. Anyway, what other jobs have you had in the past and how would you compare them to blogging?
posted by delmoi at 10:32 PM on April 6, 2008


Anyone who thinks sitting in front of a computer for the majority of every day as part of your job does not take a toll on you mentally and yes, physically too, has probably never done that in their lives either.

You know, I used to work in a warehouse, and while it might've been "hard work", it left me muscular and fit and my body was in fantastic condition. It didn't once leave me feeling exhausted and sick the way computer work often does. Unfortunately, it doesn't pay as well, I wonder why?
posted by cecilkorik at 10:35 PM on April 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


Anyone who thinks sitting in front of a computer for the majority of every day as part of your job does not take a toll on you mentally and yes, physically too, has probably never done that in their lives either.

I sit in front of a computer all day at work, and I do not think it's hard work. And I don't think it takes a toll on me either.
posted by delmoi at 10:36 PM on April 6, 2008


This story - which does not adequately resemble news - seems like it should have been written on a blog rather than for the New York Times.
posted by dgaicun at 10:46 PM on April 6, 2008


>I sit in front of a computer all day at work, and I do not
>think it's hard work. And I don't think it takes a toll on me either.

Ditto. I've done real work too. I'll take this over real work, any time. What a stupid beat-up....

Sedentary first-worlder dies of coronary: film at 11.
posted by pompomtom at 10:46 PM on April 6, 2008


I've been a removalist, dishwasher, concrete worker, kangaroo shooter and professional blogger. The 'roo shooting was hard physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Blogging's really, really hard emotionally and mentally -- if you care about it. Your feeling good when the traffic's up, bad when it's down. You can write you heart out about something that cares and watch the world not care in real-time ... and you can spend endless hours looking for the next thing that never quite comes.

Any work you care about being good at is hard work. Sounds like you've got it pretty easy, delmoi. You must feel pretty god about yourself.
posted by chinese_fashion at 10:46 PM on April 6, 2008


good, dammit, I meant good ...
posted by chinese_fashion at 10:47 PM on April 6, 2008


>You must feel pretty god about yourself.


Freud-o-rama....
posted by pompomtom at 10:49 PM on April 6, 2008


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.

But let's just pretend like it is!

I'm an unpaid blogger for a hyperlocal blogging group. I know paid bloggers who feel lots of deadline pressure. I also know journalists who feel deadline pressure. I feel it sometimes as well, but I do have the "I'm not paid" excuse to fall back on.

I don't think that pressure is any different from the pressure in any normal job. Maybe it's magnified by that strange web pressure of needing to know everything all the time lest you be left in the dust, but still, I don't think the pressure I feel as a blogger is any stronger than the pressure I feel as a web developer.

The blogger Anita Rowland died the same week Orchant did. But she died from ovarian cancer. Is there an epidemic of cancer among bloggers? Maybe the Times could look into that....

What a pointless article.
posted by dw at 10:54 PM on April 6, 2008


People in this thread are operating under different definitions of what "work" is, and never the twain shall meet.
posted by moonbiter at 11:00 PM on April 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


Blogging May Cost You Your Life? If you're a dissident in any number of countries who execute political opponents, yes. If each assignment could actually be your last, yes.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:05 PM on April 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anything that can be linked with the Internet in any way is automatically thereby made gravely worse in the eyes of traditional journalists (wonder why). If someone commits a murder and then three weeks later sends an email which mentions it, that becomes an Internet Slaying, and far worse than your ordinary crime.

So of course anyone who dies having blogged a bit is a victim of Blog Plague.

Personally I hadn't realised till I read the article so many people get paid for it, so I return to my amateurish efforts with renewed zeal.
posted by Phanx at 11:07 PM on April 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here's how I heard it: You light a single candle next to your monitor, turn out all the lights, and begin, slowly, to type "bloody meme, bloody meme, Bloody Meme," in a virgin blog entry, thirteen times. As you continue to type, you should begin adding italics and bold face and all caps until you are screaming into the nght. While you are blogging, you should be drinking Red Bull and eating Cheetos and touching yourself down there at each iteration. Near the 13th repetition of the words . . . "it" should appear, blood red, reflected in infinite recursions in your monitor...

Bloody perspective. It's a bitch.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:13 PM on April 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


Surprised they didn't mention Steve Gilliard, who died within the last year and received a NYT obit and was given an end-of-year profile in the NYT Magazine.

Obviously even sedentary office work is, well, work, and karoshi is not a concept the Japanese invented for construction workers. It's probably significantly less healthy than any kind of "hard" work. Add a variable or 24/7 schedule and a dollop of deadline stress and like any other job and those qualities you will nurture anything from diabetes to heart disease.

No, it isn't the most important thing to write a story about, but then if you're tasked with filling up the Technology page, you have to write about something.
posted by dhartung at 11:17 PM on April 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Blogging's really, really hard emotionally and mentally

Occupational diseases of our time:

- Black lung
- Asbestosis
- Radium jaw
- Blogger's belly

Unfortunately, it doesn't pay as well, I wonder why?

Given the absence of protectionist employment policies in your sector, I'm guessing it's because competent warehousemen are in far greater supply than potential employees in the knowledge-based economy?

It really isn't because they're paying you danger money for your expanding waistline, if that was what you were trying to imply.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:20 PM on April 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


I will quote one of the best pro bloggers out there, John Gruber:
There’s nothing to say about such a goofy, insipid article other than to mock it. My grandfather was a coal miner. That was a hard, stressful, dangerous job.
posted by sveskemus at 11:20 PM on April 6, 2008


Occupational diseases of our time:

- Black lung
- Asbestosis
- Radium jaw
- Blogger's belly


- Troll's toejam
- Favoriter's flu
- Cabalist's cancer
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:24 PM on April 6, 2008


Now now, BP, we all know that there is no, aakkkakakakakakk........
posted by pompomtom at 11:39 PM on April 6, 2008


.
posted by Poolio at 11:45 PM on April 6, 2008


Hey! You could die in a blogging accident! Since xkcd mentioned it, the number of Google hits for that phrase went from 2 to "about 46,700". It's an epidemic.

The Times story included a quote from TechCruncher Michael Arrington: “At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to hospital, or something else will happen. This is not sustainable.” Well, obviously, blogging like Michael Arrington does is not sustainable. He and those like him are the SUVs of Blogging, dumping tons of pollution into the Blogosphere. Yes, I said Blogosphere. The term is appropriate for its similarity to ‘atmosphere’ or even ‘ecosphere’, but blogging does not produce a Carbon Footprint per se, more of a Bullsh*t Footprint. But that’s obvious. Have you ever smelled InstaPundit?

Anyway, on behalf of all the bloggers with Writer's Block (or Blogger's Cramp, whatever), I'd like to thank the NYT for giving us such an easy target.teeny tiny self-link

And I really mean what I wrote there. I want to be the first to have died in a napping accident. I just moved my couch next to a tall cabinet containing my entire collection of sharp pointy things and I'm waiting for the next California earthquake. Niteys!
posted by wendell at 11:54 PM on April 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


I don't think this has anything to do with age or a sedentary lifestyle. I think heart disease is the #1 killer of people in the First World. It's very common to have a heart attack. What's different about bloggers is that when a blogger has a heart attack, a large number of people will be instantly made aware of it.

Think about it - if Larry Altman or Natalie Angier (from the superb New York Times Science Section) had a heart attack, do you think you'd hear about it? Probably not. The mainstream media culture isn't about what's happening to the reporters. But the blog culture is. So you're hearing about things that occur commonly to people - when those things happen to bloggers.

Let's take an analogy. How many times have you heard a blogger talk about advertising, and its impact? Everyone is exposed to advertising, and a hell of a lot of bloggers write about it because it's very pertinent to what they're seeing and being exposed to and, in some cases, their business models.

Now how many times have you heard about Larry Altman's or Natalie Angier's take on advertising? Never.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:11 AM on April 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


Considering the quality of writing that I've experienced on 90% of the blogs I've read, I think that they can all scale back production considerably without any perceived drop in quality. So, all you bloggers out there - go on, take a walk, make a salad, kiss your kids - cause writing as fast as you can....it's not worth it (in more ways than one).
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:25 AM on April 7, 2008


One of the other things re: ikkyu2's point is that bloggers and their writing has a more personal style than is historically the case with traditional media. They write more informally. They engage in conversation with their readers via comments. Many of them publish something every day. Small communities grow up around them, and cross-pollinate with other communities of like-minded bloggers. So when one of them dies, at least some in the community mourn, and word gets around because, well, that's one of the things blogs are good at: getting the word around.
posted by moonbiter at 12:37 AM on April 7, 2008


Sure, if you're a blogger, it's easy enough to choke on your own bile, but what about choking on someone else's bile? Xkcd never warned us about that danger.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:25 AM on April 7, 2008


Anybody notice the trend that NYTimes trend pieces are always wrong?
posted by srboisvert at 3:54 AM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


This article is nonsense, it should be titled No Exercise and Too Much Stress May Cost You Your Life.

Or perhaps Taking Your Job Way Too Seriously May Cost You Your Life.

Plenty of pro-bloggers manage to live perfectly happy, healthy lives while maintaining our jobs, while others (like Arrington) seem to wear their self-imposed stress like a badge of honour. I don't get why in order to care about something, you're expected to sacrifice yourself for it.
posted by ukdanae at 3:59 AM on April 7, 2008


A true blooger would have blogged about his heart attack as it was happening... "Odd pain in my arm. Now having to type one-handed. Pain spreading to chest. Google 'Emergency Medicine'"

Oh and my work is much harder than your work.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:07 AM on April 7, 2008


ukdanae: or "sometimes, people die young. Sometimes, some of those people are bloggers'.

Hold the front page!
posted by athenian at 4:18 AM on April 7, 2008


Marc Andreessen nails it with his "Future New York Times headlines" including:

Blogging Causes Herpes

Bloggers Have Bad Breath

Hitler Probably Blogged

Now Bloggers Aren't Even Wearing Pajamas

Blogging Fad Almost Over

the inevitable, perennial favorite:
Child Abuser/Serial Killer/Campus Shooter Had a Blog

and The Judy Miller memorial New York Times blogging story headline:
The Bloggers Have WMD


of course, I have a few of my own:

Blogging Causes Sterility - That May Not Be a Bad Thing
Bloggers Linked to Al Queda - or Al Jazeera - or Al Jarreau, one of them
Financial Crisis May Be Caused by Blogging
Climate Change May Be Caused by Blogging
The Blogger/WalMart Connection
Curing the Blogging Addiction
How to Tell if Your Child Is Blogging
Blogging: Threat or Menace? (to us at the NYT)
posted by wendell at 4:28 AM on April 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Must be ratings week at the NYT, eh?

Sounded like every other "it's gonna kill ya!" feature hyped by the local news shows when ratings week rolls around...

I'm amazed we ALL aren't dead yet!
posted by HuronBob at 4:42 AM on April 7, 2008


OMG. I wish I worked at a refinery or in a mine instead of blogging. It's such dangerous, dirty work sitting at my computer eating pretzels for hours on end.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:18 AM on April 7, 2008


Anyone who thinks blogging is hard work has probably never done a day of real hard work in their lives.
posted by delmoi

Work is as hard as you make it to be. I worked in the port of Helsinki for quite a few years. It involved long hours of dirty and sweaty work exposed to the environment (ranging from -30 to +30 Celcius) and often it had an element of danger to it. Though it was physically and occasionally psychologically hard work, I consider it less stressful work than my current office job, purely based on the amount of pressure I put on myself to perform my job to a high level of quality.

I think it's less to do with a sedentary lifestyle and a bad diet (both of which contribute, naturally) and more to do with the self-induced stress. Especially if you work from home and blogging is your only income. That way you're always at work and if that work stresses you out the outcome is inevitable.
posted by slimepuppy at 5:34 AM on April 7, 2008


delmoi wrote:

Anyone who thinks blogging is hard work has probably never done a day of real hard work in their lives.



The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven. - John Milton
posted by any major dude at 6:17 AM on April 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, for a while now, them bloggers have been predicting the imminent demise of newspapers and other forms of mainstream media. Looks like the Times finally decided that turnabout was fair play.
posted by Spatch at 6:23 AM on April 7, 2008


Wikistress kills. I wonder how many people Wikipedia will or has already killed. Stress hormones leading to high blood pressure is what does it, and the constant conflicts that can last for weeks or months on end really take a toll on many people there, it is the single best place to go if your looking for a fight. I have no doubt that a study of Wikipedians would turn up chronically dangerous stress levels contributing to high blood pressure and heart disease.
posted by stbalbach at 6:46 AM on April 7, 2008


what other jobs have you had in the past and how would you compare them to blogging?

Well, since you asked, delmoi:

My first job ever was as a target-painter at a competitive pistol range. A few years later I was a graveyard-shift waiter at Denny's in an area full of bars and strip clubs.

Later on, after moving to New York, I was was an assistant to the elderly, helping an 88 year-old former member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade recover from a nervous breakdown (or at least trying to). Soon after I became a full-time nanny for two children. I went on to become the personal assistant to a flamboyant philanthropist, the demands of which ran from helping to organize huge celebrity benefits to helping him recover from plastic surgery-- sometimes both at once. Last summer, because I needed the money, I was a bicycle delivery-boy for a diner in my neighborhood.

Between here and there I have worked dozens of other jobs, some much more physically or mentally demanding than others. And yeah, I'd rather be doing what I'm doing now, but not because it's easier. After years of being screamed at, after cleaning up other people's messes, and bearing witness to their misery, and feigning interest in the matters of people who throw away more money than I'll ever see, the freedom of working at home by myself is an immeasurable relief. Having only my own problems to confront (which are plenty intimidating as they are) for a change has given me a chance to convalesce.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 6:48 AM on April 7, 2008


HITLER.

There, that's out of the way.
posted by grubi at 6:50 AM on April 7, 2008


While reading this I was sure it was an April Fool's joke that they'd run on the wrong date.
posted by Ragma at 7:18 AM on April 7, 2008


I think these types of bloggers should invest in one of these (or ask Steelcase for a "sample" for test purposes in exchange for free blogging about it for a year+). If I worked at home, it'd be the first thing I'd get. *lusts*
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:25 AM on April 7, 2008


Having your writing edited, revised, remixed, and rejected every day is hard work.

That does sound like hard work, now I'm worried about the editors, revisers, remixers, and rejectors.

And the NYT loves bloggers; they're like carny callers who'll bring in the marks for free.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:28 AM on April 7, 2008


I don't know about blogging killing me, but reading some blogs make me feel a little bit dead inside.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:29 AM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Blogging's really, really hard emotionally and mentally

I have no problems seeing how this could be true for people in politically dangerous territories writing about political issues, or people intimately connected with health or social issues and writing passionately about them. But most of the people quoted in the NYT whining seem to spend their day churning out copypasta about Apple toys, GPS gadgets, TV shows, what used to be called teledildonics, and tragic pop culture mashups. This really should not become the stuff of stringent emotional and mental turmoil.
posted by meehawl at 8:25 AM on April 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


So of course anyone who dies having blogged a bit is a victim of Blog Plague.

Whether or not this phenomena actually exists, from this point forward, I will be referring to it as the Blogonic Plague.
posted by quin at 10:06 AM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sounds like someone's got a case of the blahgs.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:47 AM on April 7, 2008


I think this is what Del meant:

"Anyone who thinks blogging is [equivalent to demanding physical labor] has probably never done a day of [real demanding physical labor] in their lives."

or

"I think blogging is stupid, and done by stupid people. Therefore, anyone who does it either is not smart enough to realize it has no value, or is so stupid that doing stupid things is mentally strenuous for them."

Since I can't be sure if he was talking about physical or mental "real hard work," I decided to include both.
posted by illovich at 11:33 AM on April 7, 2008


t's easy enough to choke on your own bile, but what about choking on someone else's bile? Xkcd never warned us about that danger.

Maybe Xkcd didn't, but Spinal Tap did. "You can't really dust for vomit."
posted by kirkaracha at 1:42 PM on April 7, 2008


imho its the competitive aspect of blogging that's stressful - the need to meet the numbers, the need to meet reader views, don't pro bloggers for gawker etc get paid on page view numbers or some such stress inducing metric?

i run a professional blog but its the front page of my research consultancy type of professional, not the paid to blog kind of thing. i discovered early on that life was less stressful if I blogged to enjoy myself rather than for some irrelevant metrics that didn't make sense to me in the context of my subject matter - its not mainstream and it never will be, getting 30 readers is a good sign ;p

otoh the blog makes a good showcase for hte work we do and provides an outlet for blathering on stuff that noone wants to listen to me pontificate on ;p
posted by infini at 12:24 AM on April 8, 2008


Ha ha, it will be cool when you are all suddenly dead, especially if you die while near a computer. I bet your family will think it's funny, too, because you were a loser who posted a lot of crap on Metafilter. Ha ha, because it was online. :(
posted by kenlayne at 1:18 AM on April 8, 2008


Living may cost you your life too.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:12 PM on April 8, 2008


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