The science of blogging*

This week New Scientist has a special feature called “The cult of us” about online living, mainly social networking and blogging. Since I blog, I was obviously very interested in what they had to say.

The first thing that hits you about the blogosphere is the sheer enormity of it:

Blogging extends well beyond teen diaries, however … according to a website called Technorati, which monitors the blogosphere. It says it is currently tracking 51.3 million blogs worldwide, and claims that 75,000 new blogs are created every day – that’s almost one per second. The blogosphere is 100 times bigger than it was three years ago, a doubling in size roughly every six months.

Is it good or bad? The article linked above shrugs off its effect on teenagers thusly:

Online socialisation is just an extension of the kind of interactions that people have daily by phone, text message and email…

They did have an interview with someone more critical, here:*

But just as not all information put on the web is true, not all aspects of the new sociality should be celebrated. We communicate with quick instant messages, “check-in” cell calls and emoticon graphics. All of these are meant to quickly communicate a state. They are not meant to open a dialogue about complexity of feeling.

The internet, or even just the blogosphere, is incredibly diverse. Certainly there’s the trap for teenagers to write and talk in netspeak, which limits them to superficiality. But by blogging, there’s also room for them to open up. To use strangers as a soundboard for their “what ifs”. When I was a teenager, I often wondered what would happen if I said or did something inappropriate. What would the consequences be? I’ll never know about the things I wasn’t game to say or do. But if blogs had existed then, maybe I could have asked my readers. Beyond socialising, it can actually get quite deep. As any teenager will tell you.

That said, I think it is an issue that it takes away from one’s time alone. Speaking for myself here, I don’t have a great deal of time to myself, and what time I do have is often spent online (yes, I’m an addict). Is it a bad thing? Should I be meditating or walking alone on the beach instead? I’m not sure if time spent truly alone has any intrinsic value. But it might, and if it does, there are millions of people out there who just need to switch off for a while.

* Unfortunately these articles are subscription only. I recommend the subscription though!