This past week, I was contacted by a reporter from the Stockton Record. She interviewed me for a story about women here in California’s Central Valley who blog. She has also spoken with women in nearby Modesto and Stockton.
Among the questions she asked me: “How did you get started blogging? Why do you blog?” There is an ongoing dialogue about the “why” of blogging. In recent days, I’ve found myself considering that question again, but not only because of that interview.
The New York Times recently examined the plight of professional bloggers, reporting that two have died in the past few months and a third survived a December 2007 heart attack.
Is blogging for a living a new source of work-related maladies and associated claims for medical and other benefits?
Michael Arrington of Tech Crunch is quoted as having concluded that his work-at-home blogging lifestyle is “not sustainable.” He claims that blogging has caused him to gain thirty pounds in three years, develop a severe sleep disorder, and convert his home into an office accommodating four employees, the tacit implication being that the convergence of his home and business lives has been unsettling, at a minimum.
As I told the Record’s reporter, I blog strictly for enjoyment, stress release, insomnia. I have fun reading the work of other bloggers, studying their blog themes and templates for ideas about how to tweak mine, and thoroughly enjoy writing about topics unrelated to the issues I deal with in the course of earning a living. Those who choose to abandon traditional employment in favor of generating sufficient income to support themselves by blogging face the same issues vis a vis technology as those of us who toil in the corporate world or government, but the dangers are magnified, perhaps exponentially.
Even at established companies, the Internet has changed the nature of work, allowing people to set up virtual offices and work from anywhere at any time. That flexibility has a downside, in that workers are always a click away from the burdens of the office. For obsessive information workers, that can mean never leaving the house.
One of the biggest challenges is the 24/7 nature of the Internet and, hence, requirement that bloggers be perpetually available to write about and aware of recent news items and technological developments. Arrington says, “There’s no time ever — including when you’re sleeping — when you’re not worried about missing a story.”
A colleague recently told me about his Hawaiian vacation. Holding up his Blackberry — identical to mine — he said, “Hey, did you know that these work in Hawaii?” I chuckled and replied, “Well, mine worked in New York City last year. I left it in my hotel room during the day, but checked my office email each night when I returned from sightseeing, Broadway shows, etc. I absolutely refused to carry that thing around New York with me.”
“Well, when we got off the plane in Honolulu,” he continued, “I turned it back on and then told my wife, ‘Look, honey, it works here!’ Do you know what she said to me?”
“I have a pretty good idea, but tell me,” I responded.
“She said, ‘if you don’t turn it back off, you’re going to find out if it works from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.'”
We both laughed, but the point was clear: At some point, we all need to disconnect, relax, rest, and allow our minds to be refreshed.
How many years do you think these men will be able to maintain their lifestyles without suffering at least minor adverse impacts?
Matt Buchanan, 22, . . . works for clicks for Gizmodo, a popular Gawker Media site that publishes news about gadgets. Mr. Buchanan lives in a small apartment in Brooklyn, where his bedroom doubles as his office.
He says he sleeps about five hours a night and often does not have time to eat proper meals. But he does stay fueled — by regularly consuming a protein supplement mixed into coffee.
But make no mistake: Mr. Buchanan, a recent graduate of New York University, loves his job. He said he gets paid to write (he will not say how much) while interacting with readers in a global conversation about the latest and greatest products.
“The fact I have a few thousand people a day reading what I write — that’s kind of cool,” he said. And, yes, it is exhausting. Sometimes, he said, “I just want to lie down.”
Sometimes he does rest, inadvertently, falling asleep at the computer.
“If I don’t hear from him, I’ll think: Matt’s passed out again,” said Brian Lam, the editor of Gizmodo. “It’s happened four or five times.”
Mr. Lam, who as a manager has a substantially larger income, works even harder. He is known to pull all-nighters at his own home office in San Francisco — hours spent trying to keep his site organized and competitive.
Lam is praised for encouraging his blogging staff to “take breaks, even vacations.” What a great guy!
For the record, my Blackberry is programmed to automatically turn off at 11:00 p.m. each night and come back on at 7:00 a.m. If someone just has to reach me during those hours when it is powered down, they can do so the reliable, old-fashioned way: They can call me — on my “land line.”
Why do you blog? How many hours per week do you devote to blogging, reading other blogs or periodicals online, drafting documents, watching videos or using the computer for any other purpose? Are you perpetually connected or do you, as Mr. Lam suggests, “take breaks, even vacations?” How has being connected via technology impacted your life to date? And what steps are you taking to assure that you do not become a slave to or victim of our 24/7 culture?
Click here to read Part Four.