Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Social media therapy

Via Balloon Juice, I found this interesting article in the New Yorker called "What Your Tweets Say about You," which reports on a study of just that, but also at the end has this observation about blogging and social media:

For decades, Pennebaker’s studies have shown that when people keep a journal they tend to fare better emotionally, recover more quickly from negative experiences, and achieve more academically and professionally. Other recent work suggests that social media provides the same benefits, despite the fact that, unlike a journal, it’s inherently public. A 2013 study found that bloggers received the same therapeutic boosts as people who keep regular diaries; what’s more, the highest benefits came from writing entries that were open to comment, which were actually more beneficial than private journal entries. Researchers want to use social media to learn about you. But by writing in a public space you may also be learning about -- and helping -- yourself.

This was news to me. I kept a journal for many years starting probably in junior high school. I no longer remember why I started it, but my memory is that early on it was a place to write about my "ideas". The last time I looked at those oldest journals, which was probably twenty or thirty years ago, I found them painfully and relentlessly intellectualized, with very little about what I was feeling or what was going on in my life. As I got older, however, and probably after I got some counseling in my 20s, I started writing more about what I was feeling and what was going on in my life. I probably did think of it as being therapeutic, but I also felt that it was a journal of frustration and anxiety and painful self-doubt. I believe I stopped keeping the journal sometime in my late 30s or early 40s, and in retrospect it seemed to be because I had grown more accepting of myself and my limitations. I no longer felt so frustrated with my life and with my self. I apparently didn't need the therapy anymore.

Or did I? It wasn't all that long after I stopped writing in notebooks before I started this LiveJournal in July 2005. (It's the tenth anniversary this year!) I recognized almost immediately that it satisfied pretty much the same itch as my old paper journal, except it wasn't private. That's part of what's so interesting about that quote from the article above. I remember showing my paper journal to my friend carl when we were freshmen in college -- perhaps the only time I showed anybody else my journal -- and how the sense of connection that resulted was almost overpowering. My LiveJournal has been pretty personal at times, but it has gotten less so since I put my real name on it and opened it to search engines. But there's still something powerful about putting your thoughts out in a public space, and that's true of Facebook too. It doesn't feel particularly therapeutic to me anymore, but perhaps it really is. Perhaps there's more therapeutic value in sharing a book review than I realized. I guess one thing I *have* noticed is that on the most primitive level posting things to the internet is a bit like pinging a server. It's a way of saying, "Are you out there? Can you see me? Are we connected?"


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 1st, 2015 11:12 pm (UTC)
All that sounds reasonable to me, assuming that the ancient Greek philosopher was right in saying "The unexamined life is not worth living". Keeping a Journal is probably the best approach. Being active in Live Journal or on your own Blog seem to vie for second. Twitter seems to me to be the lowest level, but I guess it's better than nothing. For me, the transition from Journal to Perzine worked well... until I decided that neither I nor many of the other people I knew were all that interested in the constant me, me, me, and that I wasn't nearly as good a Writer as I hade once (aged c. 35) as I had once thought I was. (Competent, maybe, but not much above mediocre.)
Apr. 2nd, 2015 12:38 am (UTC)
I was intrigued by the claim that public journals such as blogs and social media were just as beneficial, therapeutically speaking, as private journals. I suppose fanzines would fall under the category of public journals as well, and maybe like you my transition away from a private journal actually occurred when I got into fanzines. It did happen around the same time, although I've never made that connection before.

As for your last comment, I imagine none of us are as good a writer as we once thought we were. Good therapy isn't necessarily good writing!
Apr. 2nd, 2015 03:38 am (UTC)
I was thinking along the lines of: When you are communicating in any of these media you need to start with figuring out where your head is at (as many of us used to say back in the old daze), which is the best therapy. Vital, even. Then you figure out how much of this you want to share with the people you are hoping to communicate it to, which also good therapy, and how you're going to do it (which may be therapy of sorts). So yeah, I can see how many investigators could conclude that all of these media would be of about equal value for most people.

Apr. 2nd, 2015 04:27 pm (UTC)
Sounds about right to me. I wonder if anyone has ever written about fanzines as therapy? Hm. I've been trying to think of something to write about for the next issue of Chunga ...
Apr. 2nd, 2015 09:44 pm (UTC)
I first attempted to keep what I pretended was a public diary (nobody else ever saw it) when I was 18. It was not until I joined LJ that I was able to keep such a thing up.
Apr. 2nd, 2015 10:18 pm (UTC)
That's interesting. So you wrote it as though to an audience?
Apr. 3rd, 2015 02:20 am (UTC)
In theory, yes. I was at the time thinking in terms of resembling a newspaper feature column. Didn't work, in part because I couldn't figure out how to balance the personal and the general. But also because I had no actual audience. Having one on LJ really makes a difference, even if they don't comment.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

Latest Month

April 2017


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Lilia Ahner