Death by Blogging

Today’s NYT features a rather bizarre feature entitled, “In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop.”

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.

Of course, the bloggers can work elsewhere, and they profess a love of the nonstop action and perhaps the chance to create a global media outlet without a major up-front investment. At the same time, some are starting to wonder if something has gone very wrong. In the last few months, two among their ranks have died suddenly.

Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.

Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.

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. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style.

There’s no doubt that blogging can be stressful, especially for those trying to make a living at it. Then again, most white collar jobs are stressful. Indeed, life itself is rather stressful.

Dr. Helen Smith, a forensic psychologist who blogs and is married to InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds, observes, “Funny, I had a heart attack before I started blogging. Now I am fine. Coincidence? I think not. Some bloggers actually see their craft as therapeutic.” Swaraaj Chauhan, a “working journalist” in his day job, is among them. He finds blogging “a pure joy” in comparison.

Meanwhile, Stacy McCain and Karl find the whole thing simultaneously funny and insulting.

There are a wide variety of personality types out there and things that some find immensely relaxing, others find incredibly stressful. And some people thrive on stress while others are debilitated by it. Most can cope with more exercise, a better diet, and other lifestyle changes; some need medication.

Regardless, if the activity you’re choosing to make a living at is adversely affecting your health, it’s time to look for another line of work. That’s easier said than done for, say, a middle aged coal miner. But, surely, educated people with strong writing skills can find gainful employment doing something they find less taxing.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    As I said at my own place this morning, James, you don’t need to be Fellini to figure this one out.

    The reporters at the NYT are working under the same kind of stresses to get the story out, if they’re doing their jobs, that is, and the Times doesn’t report on those. Of course, they also don’t mention that Blog readership is going through the roof, while that of the Times is going down like a fireball.

    One doesn’t have to be Fellini to figure out the subliminal message of this particular film: “You can’t win against us. ” Or, perhaps more graphically, “You can win a few battles, but you’ll die going against us”.

    Nah, the Times doesn’t have any motivation in the matter. Right?

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    I find blogging therapeutic. It keeps me mentally alert and interested. I honestly believe that blogging has allowed me to do other, non-blogging things I would have had difficulty doing without it.

  3. Bithead says:

    You and I are on the same page, there, Dave.
    I mean, when I add up all the talents that need to be brought in a blogging project…

    * Web mastery
    * Software mastery
    * (Creative?) Writing
    * World awareness
    * promoting
    * social networking
    * Critical thinking

    These are all skills that can be used, once so honed, outside the blogging world. I have had employers, hire me on the basis of the blog. Not that they agree with everything I say, but the assumption is if I can keep something like that running, I must have a little on the ball.

    In that light, anyone running a successful blog, has a leg up, in my view.