8.5.09

BLOGS AND THE RISE OF THE GLOBAL CHEAP VITAMIN


Our small texting devices, our little free blog – our intimate daily technologies that embed these personal/ social opportunities are surfacing as literally healthy. Blogs specifically are rising as a solution to increase our general wellbeing, and are rapidly being applied (especially in a world full of stress, angst, and inaccessible/ expensive healthcare). Could these daily devices (blogs, for instance) be thought of as vitamins that strengthen certain parts of our bodies? It is a playful analogy; these little technologies as inexpensive accessible over-the-counter vitamins (for example, blogs, wii-fit), compared to the expensive “antibiotics” counterparts (blogs replace shrinks, wii-fits are considered over gym memberships and personal trainers).

Such “antibiotics” /devices are not mere substitutes for the unaffordable. These sorts of small/ personal- scale technologies should not be thought of as just “tools,” for technology is a “medium and engine for social relations”; it generates new spaces for us to meet, gather, talk, vent, cry, love, cope, soothe, and befriend. In other words, technological change informs “what we believe we are supposed to do,” our adaption, or amendments to living.

BLOG AS A THERAPUTIC DEVICE

Journaling has established itself as a therapeutic medium; several studies show it can lead to significant improvements in an author’s physical health, psychological well-being, psychological functioning, and overall functioning. (Baker & Moore 81). While chronicling thoughts, emotions, dreams, fears, opinions, rants and anxieties is not novel, technology embeds a living audience into the blogging medium. Immediately there is a receiver, a listener, a global readership.

AOL surveyed 600 bloggers July 2005 to find the true intent of bloggers; how blogs are actually used. Results showed hardly any signs of users like “wannabe journalists” (16% blog because of interests in journalism, and just 8% blog to share political views). The leading role of blogging is not a news outlet, not a gossip corner, but rather it is emotional, intimate, and open: the survey revealed that nearly 50% blog as a self-therapy (Peterson 28).

Interestingly, the poll showed, when faced with hard or stressful times, 31% of bloggers will turn to writing in their blog or reading blogs with similar issues. Surprisingly, turning to family and friends scored only one percent more bloggers, at 32%. Blogs today have become so powerful, so healing; their breadths of comfort to those who use them are comparable to the blogger’s own personal confidants. Blogs may also be seen as a viable substitution for psychologists or counselors (the results show that only 5% of bloggers would prefer a professional in such times). Blogs have been described as a “typing-cure”, (essentially) free accessible global therapy.

How incredible. Free accessible global therapy.

SURFACING AS A CLINICAL COMPLIMENT

If this is the case, can blogs bloom as a clinical resource? Does this everyday technology really have healing powers, the therapeutic potentials for patients?

Christina Vernon Ayers, The Cleveland Clinic Director for the Office for a Healthy Environment, explains a depressing truth: that many times there are “back doors” in hospitals for certain patients, like those with the visible baldness of cancer, who do not want to be seen at any cost. Physical signs of sickness prevent them from reaching out, and destroy their chances of finding support, advice, or confidant. Blogs may have a strong appeal to cancer patients in this regard, for those sorts of patients that apt to hide themselves because of hair loss, deformity, visible sickness. Blogs can become "…a bit like a neighborhood pub or coffee shop. It's a little like a salon, where I can participate in a hundred ongoing conversations with people who don't care what I look like or sound like, but who care how I think and communicate" (Jones 33). Blogging can be a sort of safe / protected medium for sensitive patients, since the blog inherently has a “high intimacy with low vulnerability” (Bennedett 1).

There is no doubt that patient-blogging is growing in size, popularity and power. Current trends have promptly integrated blogs into recovery/ therapy programs; like Blog for Hope, and CarePages – even if it is simply because "It takes more than medicine to heal. We must meet our most elemental needs for personal connections and community, too, and the Internet is rapidly evolving to meet those needs" (Dr. Sharon Langshur; co-founder of CarePages). Perhaps it is not too farfetched to argue, that a free blog, a ten cent text message, holds a surprising weight in clinical recovery. Today’s small intimate technologies have capacities to globally combat isolation, depression, restlessness, stress, and loneliness. The world is discovering that those “over-the-counter” technologies (for example, texting, blogging, wii-fits) are not only upgrading our wellbeing as a community, but these daily influencers that we take once, twice, three times a day, are actually the producers of communities. “Communities are defined as shared, close, and intimate, while societies are defined as separate, distanced, and anonymous” (Jones 18). It is both adventurous and romantic, that today we have new forms of community, that they can be assembled swiftly, created immediately. The ability for modern technology to create 24 hour community, a sort of pre-assembled community where one can slide between online and offline, is a clear asset for the rapidity and unpredictability of disease.

The blogosphere has actually evolved into a therapeutic space for those who have the most challenges (appearance-boundaries, mobility, intensive treatments, etc) with occupying space. Without a doubt, the blog will rise as a powerful “spatial – vitamin”, not just to the sick, lonely, handicapped, immobile but the blogosphere can be anyone’s “spatial – vitamin” -- the cheap (if not free) amazing supplements to increase each of our social stamina, our emotive wellness and cerebral fitness. In a country where healthcare is slipping out of the reach of the young, becoming a burden to the elderly, and becoming expensive for our parents, the blog will surely rise and contour as (an already-labeled) “typing cure”, perhaps the truest form of a miracle drug we had ever seen: the free global chemical-less vitamin.

References:

Bennett, Jessica. (2008.) My Shrink Says … Blog! [Electronic version]. Newsweek. Retrieved April 9, 2009.

(C. Vernon Ayers, personal communication, March 2, 2009).

(E. McDaniel, personal communication, April 14 2009).

Baker, James R., & Moore, Susan M. (2008). Distress, Coping

Baker, James R., & Moore, Susan M. (2008). Distress, Coping, and Blogging: Comparing New Myspace Users by Their Intention to Blog. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 11(1). Retrieved April 8, 2009 from Electronic Journal Finder.

Jones, Steven G., (1994). Understanding Community in the Information Age. In S. Jones (Ed), Cybersociety, Computer-Mediated Communication and Community (10-35).Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Langshur, Sharon. (2008). Online Healthcare Gets Personal, Health 2.0 and the Healing Power of Supportive Communities. CarePages.com. Retrieved April 12, 2009.

Lenhart, Amanda & Fox, Susannah. (2006). Bloggers, A Portrait of the Internet’s New Storytellers. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved April 12, 2009.

Peterson, Tommy. (2005). The Typing Cure [Electronic version]. ComputerWorld. October Issue. Retrieved April 9, 2009 from Electronic Journal Finder.

Saffo, Paul. (1993). Hot New Medium: Text [Electronic version]. Wired Magazine, Issue 1.02. Retrieved April 10 2009, from <http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/1.02/1.2_saffo.html>.


1 comment:

micah said...

so if blogs are comforting spaces, is there any additional affect that might take hold due to the design of these spaces? such as, if users were given some sort of avatar, would they be able to identify better with one another, or is the anonymity of the use of just words more consoling?

or beyond that; consider how a user interfaces with a digital environment. if it's highly interactive, would one feel more linked to that online community as opposed to in a traditional blog/forum context?