Sep 18, 2014

Blog Psychology - the Positive and Negative Impacts of Blogging

The Psychological Impact of Blogging | Business, Life & Design

I like blogging.  But I think the appeal is something a lot stronger than "I like it."

I blog about a lot of issues that I couldn't/wouldn't/maybe shouldn't discuss in real life.  Either it's inappropriate, or upsetting, or I just have beef with something someone said or did and want to vent about it without starting an unnecessary argument.

So I've found blogging to be an outlet and a lot of times I'll get a rush from a particularly well-phrased post, or when I feel like I've nailed the point I was trying to make.  I feel like it's also encouraged me to be more positive in general, and reading other blogs has opened up my eyes to a plethora of positive influences.

What I'm wondering now is whether blogging could be said to have a positive psychological impact, not just for me, but everyone.  When I googled "psychological impact of blogging" the articles that popped up had titles like "Blogging May Have Positive Psychological Effects For Teens" and "Therapeutic value of adolescents’ blogging about social-emotional difficulties" which seems to reinforce my point.

Judging from the articles I found, the only formal or maybe the only conclusive studies were done on teens.  Which is logical, since there have been so many issues with that age group and cyber bullying, and social media depression (the misleading portrayal of everyone else's life as "perfect" and resulting negative comparison).

While I'm glad that not all social media has a negative impact on teens, I'm curious about the adults.  So I asked a few bloggers about their experience with blogging and here's what I found out.

And So Our Story Begins...


People listed all sorts of reasons for starting a blog.  Looking for a creative outlet or hobby was the most common reason, but survey participants also mentioned escapism, keeping track of life events, improving their writing skills, self expression, and potential revenue generation.  A couple even mentioned starting at the suggestion of others.

Note: "Other" will typically refer to one-off answers (only one person gave that answer) or specific things that didn't fit well into a category.  In this case, "other" answers include: starting at the suggestion of others, and joining as an alternative to another media.
  • ʺ... I needed some kind of escape and a possible way to earn money in the future.ʺ
  • ʺ...wanted a creative outlet for my own writing...ʺ
  • ʺ...a place for my family to keep up with me...ʺ
  • ʺ... my English Professor told me if I wanted to be a writer I have to write every day.ʺ
  • ʺ...friends kept urging me to do it...ʺ

But what all bloggers have in common is that, for one reason or another, they stuck with it and blogging has become an integral part of their lives.

  • "It was where I came to vent and relate and just write everyday. 2 years later and I'm still here."
  • ʺ...I finally settled on what I wanted, deleted my YouTube channel, jumped head first into blogging, and haven’t looked back since.ʺ

Bloggers Blog Because


It probably comes as no surprise that community was one of the biggest incentives to continue blogging, along with the pure enjoyment of having a creative outlet.

"Other" answers include: record keeping (for self and/or family and friends), and introspection/personal growth.
  • ʺFor me now blogging is about the connections and the friendships with people I've never really met, which feels completely weird to type/say if I'm being honest.ʺ
  • ʺSounds corny but I love when people tell me they laugh, or get inspired, or feel better because of a post I've written.ʺ
  • ʺI am building friendships and that's all I need to get out of it.ʺ

The Positives


Let's talk pros and cons.  Obviously community is one of the biggest positives, since it's the highest motivator to continue.  An interesting thing was that while creative outlet was one of the bigger reasons for starting a blog, self expression was more prominent as a positive after having/maintaining a blog for a period of time.

For the purpose of this project, a creative outlet refers to any hobby, writing or otherwise, that allows the participant to utilize creative energy.  Self expression is more about being heard and communicating your thoughts to others.  Basically "I wanted to write" vs "I wanted to be heard."

"Other" answers include: creative outlet, introspection/personal growth, record keeping, and revenue.
  • ʺThere is so much genuine conversation and connection in this community and I love it and the relationships that I have created through it.ʺ
  • ʺI find it fascinating to connect with like minded individuals who are experiencing some of life's similar situations and moments and just breathe deep in the knowledge that I'm not alone.ʺ

If other bloggers are anything like me, when they started, it was without awareness that the blogging community even existed.  The fact that it does is one of the absolutely amazing and fulfilling things about blogging, but it can also be one of the downsides.

The Negatives


The accessibility of the internet is definitely a mixed bag.  As one blogger mentioned, connecting with like-minded people can ease feelings of isolation or loneliness.  However, that connection can also bring us into contact with the negativity of others and competition, which accounted for the highest part of blogger's dissatisfaction.

Negativity is pretty self-explanatory, but competition is more complex.  Bloggers expressed both the expectations of others, and their own personal expectations as a source of discontent.  External expectations refers to pressures and criticisms by other bloggers, and personal expectations refers to feelings of insufficiency, comparison with others, and feeling the need to compete or "keep up."

"Other" answers include: blog maintenance, closed community/not friendly to non-bloggers, and finding a life/blog balance.
  • ʺ...it still bugs me that people get so up in arms about every little thing.ʺ
  • ʺ... the stress of comparison with other bloggers who have more followers or take prettier pictures or get ALL THE FREE STUFF.ʺ
  • ʺWe bloggers put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect in the blogging world."

Impact of Blog on Overall Happiness


To finally get to the point: with all those negatives and positives, does blogging have an impact on bloggers' overall happiness?

Change in Happiness

More than 3/4 of the surveyed bloggers reported feeling happier now than prior to starting a blog.
 

Did the Blog Contribute?

Less bloggers reported a direct impact from the blog, but the majority felt their blog contributed in some way to their overall happiness.  There were also those who felt the blog contributed in both positive and negative ways, which either evened out, or had an ultimate positive yield.  No one reported feeling less happy after blogging.

  • ʺI have stress in my life because of blogging that wouldn't be there otherwise, but it's introduced some great opportunities and people into my life, and I really do enjoy it.ʺ
  • ʺI do notice that I sometimes am more intent on ʺcapturingʺ life -- probably for the blog. This can be both a blessing and a curse so I'm all about trying to find the perfect balance.ʺ
  • ʺBlogging has pushed me outside my comfort zone and with each new experience or time I write and get positive feedback I have become a lot more confident in myself and comfortable being myself.ʺ
  • ʺThe fact that people care about what I have to say is a real confidence booster!ʺ

So Was This Conclusive?


Not entirely.  It was a tiny, not-very-scientific study with only 11 participants.  But, allowing for the small sample size, it tells us these things:
  1. There are positives and negatives, but the end yield per individual is positive or neutral(Hypothesis: those who found it to be a negative simply stopped doing it.)
  2. The blogging community is the biggest contributor to both sides. (Community = people.  Simply put, some people are great and some people suck.)
  3. The good outweighs the bad. (I'd like to apply this to people as a whole, in addition to the blogging community.)
  4. We can remove 27% of the drawbacks by letting go of our expectations and the pressure we put upon our selves.
  5. We can remove 54% by not caring what the negative portion of the community has to say or what they expect of us.
Blogging is what you make of it.  So let's get out there and meet more awesome, like-minded people, forget about the "rules," and get the most out of our blogs that we possibly can!

My Lovely Research Participants

Thanks everyone who was able and willing to participate!  This has been a fascinating and inspiring project.

Amanda @ The Lady Okie
Who I read for her wit, general good-heartedness, and awesome Blog Talk series.
Amanda's Favorite: How to Start Running: Pt 1
 Who has the cutest new baby and likes to keep it real with family stories and thoughts on life.
Who I don't think really needs an introduction.  She's kind of a thing.
Helene's Favorite: I Read Your Blog
Who, along with her husband, entertains me no end while hitting all the right serious topics.
Kelli @ Just Beachy
Who is probably the most genuine blogger I've "met," and isn't afraid to break a few rules!
Kelli's Favorite: When a Blog Dies
Who is too cute for words and always makes me laugh.
Who has an awesome mix of sports and girly, and gives us some great blog and design tips.
Sarah's Favorite: The Devil Wears Ziplock
Sarah Christine @ Sarah Christine Style
Who gives us fashion with a healthy dose of thoughtfulness and positive self image.
Who won me over with her no-nonsense practicality and her common-sense hausfrau tips.
Steph's Favorite: The Art of Saying No
Taylor @ Daily Tay
Who provides my daily dose of humor and understands that dogs are people, too.
Trish @ Trish List
 Who gives us insights into personal growth, frugal finds, and truly cares about building community.
Trish's Favorite: What Would Shakespeare Do?

One Last Note on Community

I was absolutely blown away by how awesome everyone was!  Of the 15 people I asked, 11 people not only responded but filled out the survey within a week or 2.  I was a bit over-ambitious with this.  I even sent it to the The Bloggess and she ACTUALLY RESPONDED!  She declined very politely and I still can't believe she even bothered to write back.

I know there's a negative side to blogging.  There's a negative side to everything.  But this experience has been nothing but positive for me, and I really appreciate the community that I've found.  Thanks, everyone!

Does your blog impact your overall happiness?  What would you ask to improve the study?

 
P.S. Want to put your 2 cents in?  Feel free to take the survey:




Note: provided answers are based on the feedback I got already, but don't feel constrained!  Answer however it makes the most sense to you!
 
Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design

5 comments:

  1. I LOVE this, I also love that you had so many different bloggers offer their input big and small!

    Time to make sure everyone reads it.

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  2. This came out great! Love all your graphs and so glad you had such a great turnout! See this is why I keep coming back cause you keep getting me hooked!

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  3. Really interesting Jenn! Love the graphs. Thanks for asking me to participate.

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  4. this is awesome. thank you so so much for putting this all together. I really feel like I gained some knowledge and I'm quite frankly honored that you called me "a thing" i think i'll have to write that down.

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  5. I love this! It was really interesting to see how I compare to everyone else, what we agree or disagree on.

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