A comment by one of my students in response to a previous post sent me back to the literature to look at work by James Pennebaker of the University of Texas, Austin. Pennebaker has written extensively on the health benefits of expressive writing. He generously provides pdf files of most of his work on his website, linked above.
One interesting aspect of blogs from Pennebaker and his colleagues is the comparisons between female and male bloggers on variables such as pronoun use, hyperlink use, and “blog” word use . According to these authors, women and men both blog with relatively equal frequency overall, but older women (48+, which I suppose is old in the world of the Internet) only blog about a third as much as older men.
According to one interview, Pennebaker does have some reservations about the benefits of blogging about personal challenges. According to this article, Pennebaker recommends using journaling to “…stop, stand back and look at your life….to make ‘life force corrections’ and then, well, go back to living rather than ‘a little too much navel gazing.'”
A good example of using a blog to work through a challenge (although as a big sister, I confess to some bias) is my brother Leroy’s blog, My Cancer, for NPR. Not only is Leroy a gifted writer, but he has inspired many other people who are struggling with cancer. His blog generates hundreds of comments on each post. Personally, I often find it difficult to read. I see the words, but hear the voice, and I am devastated that my smart, witty brother has to go through so much pain. There is that survival guilt issue.
Leroy also generously shared his experience in a documentary for the Discovery Channel.
I’d be very interested to know how many students blog. Some data indicate that 90% of bloggers are between the ages of 13 and 29. If you’re one of those and want to share, I’d love to post a blogroll of student bloggers.
1. Schler, J., Koppel, M., Argamon, S., & Pennebaker, J. Effects of age and gender on blogging. Retrieved on November 5, 2007 from http://lingcog.iit.edu/doc/springsymp-blogs-final.pdf