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Sarah Britten

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

When blogging is bad for your health

I have reached the conclusion that blogging is bad for my health. Not only does it encourage me to hunch over a laptop and peer at a screen, thus exacerbating chronic back, neck and shoulder pain, it’s also bad for my mental equilibrium.

Frankly, blogging is bloody depressing. It’s soul-destroying when your blog doesn’t attract reads. It’s devastating when it sinks down the Amatomu rankings. And even if it does attract comments, usually a sign that what you have written has resonated with someone, somewhere, it rapidly descends into nasty personal attack and ignores the issue at hand.

So why do it? Why subject oneself to needless torment when one’s time could be used far more productively in other endeavours, like doing the ironing or cooking two weeks’ supply of lentils (if you freeze them, they last really well).

I started my blog on ThoughtLeader because I plan to turn the material (post a great deal of editing, natch) into a book, and I wanted the discipline of having to update regularly. The implied expectation of those readers, the competitive ranking of bloggers by popularity, isn’t a reason to write. But it’s a useful incentive to someone who, like me, suffers from chronic procrastination. I need to have projects on the go; without them I tend to unravel.

I also thought I might attract a better sort of reader, despite the naturally divisive nature of my subject (moving to Australia, national comparisons and rivalries and so on). I had hoped we would debate issues and approach them from different angles instead of endlessly adopting the same reflexive rhetorical positions. Sadly, this is not the case. The nastiness of some of the comments is truly staggering, especially the ones on posts that aren’t especially controversial: there are a lot of fetid little souls with axes to grind out there, and they all come out to play in cyberspace.

Should I carry on? I don’t know. Perhaps, if I can resist the temptation to read the comments, just post and not look back. But as it stands, blogging is not good for my health. Not good at all.

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    June 4th, 2008 @10:07 #
     
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    Hi there Sheila. (That's about as nasty a comment as you'll get on Book SA - welcome back!)

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    June 4th, 2008 @10:56 #
     
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    No true, Louis. The degree of self-deprecation on this site is truly appalling at times.

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  • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    June 4th, 2008 @11:02 #
     
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    At least a blog is relatively quickly written; if reads, hits and comments were all writers wrote for, most authors would kill themselves (see Death Wish post) because if world average book sales are anything to go by the average work of fiction attracts attracts 0.0000033333333333333333% of the world. In South Africa a book that sells about 2000 copies is considered a best-seller and that represents 0.000033333333333333335% of the world's population. Our phenomenon at the moment is still Spud with 200 000 copies sold and that represents 0.0033333333333333335% of people. If quantitative feedback is what it's about the difference between 200 and 200 000 is statistically insignificant, virtually irrelevant. Qualitatively though, one lone reader is significant, and it has nothing to do with statistics or Amatomu rankings. Even if that lone reader is the lone writer him/herself. I'd say remember Van Gogh, post, and never look back.

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  • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    June 4th, 2008 @11:16 #
     
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    True, Richard - Sven got quite heavy-handed with the self-flagellation the other day. And what with our vicarious spectation of the apocalyptic pillow fight that is the Breytenbach-with/vs/wtf?-the-establishment fracas, there's blood all over the screen.

    And, Alex, if blog responses were all that mattered, I would have given up long ago. Like for instance yesterday I shared a most profound philosophical insight with the world on my blog, it was entirely ignored and was soon rendered marginal by the various (admittedly more amusing) whitterings on sundry other topics. What is a wannabe cult leader to do?

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    June 4th, 2008 @11:50 #
     
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    I have every intention of plumbing your profound depths sometime soon. I want to give your piece the attention it deserves. But I can't promise I'll join your cult, unless you make me commander-in-chief of your bloodthirsty groupies.

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    June 4th, 2008 @11:54 #
     
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    Yes, Sarah, Thoughtleader... I used to check it regularly and, as with many blogs, I avoid any that attract the crazies, the trolls, the mouthfoaming fulminations of the bitter, the twisted and the ignorant. And I am just talking from a reader's perspective. I mean, if the comments could at least be as civilised, as informed and as witty as those often generated by BookSA's literati, there would be a measure of enjoyment. But it's not all bad and scary - one post on education at Thoughtleader received a response from the Minister of Education herself. Well, maybe that is scary.

    And it's just too easy to say: shrug it off, write on. If as a reader I am exhausted by the fulminations of trolls, I imagine it to be particularly debilitating to the writer. Why not move your blog to BookSA? You can always count on Richard for a witty response, Sven for a suitably apocalyptic perspective, Alex for statistical analysis.

    Louis, I read your post but I thought a disquisition on the fallacies of string theory - a form of quantum belief - was going to keep me away from reading, formatting and posting Richard's translations from 'Raka' at Groundwork.

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    June 4th, 2008 @12:01 #
     
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    Oh, and Sarah, I forgot, a desktop discourages hunching over it...

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  • <a href="http://sveneick.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sven</a>
    Sven
    June 4th, 2008 @12:18 #
     
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    Louis, self-flagellation should never be light-handed, it's sort of against the spirit of the whole thing. Kind of like wearing a cilice made out of daffodils.

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  • <a href="http://sveneick.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sven</a>
    Sven
    June 4th, 2008 @12:25 #
     
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    Oh, and to remain relevant to the topic, blogging seems to be driven by negative bias, i.e. the tendency people have to focus on negative information. My experience of blogging was that it tends to generate conflict more often than not, particularly when one is trying to say something remotely meaningful (i.e. top 5 teas for summer is not likely to evoke quite the same level of malignant response as a discussion of shadow government in the United States).

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  • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    June 4th, 2008 @18:27 #
     
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    It is a statistical fact that the best things are said when nobody is listening and the best things written are never read. Lone writers and madmen are in excellent company.

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