From the department of shamelessly cutting and pasting an entire article:
WHEN the first blogs (short for web logs, or online diaries) were posted in late 1998, they were a novelty. Today, blogging is so ubiquitous that health professionals have begun investigating the health effects of blogging as an activity - concluding that blogging can foster critical thinking and feelings of connection.I like the bit where they talk about blogging. The article speaks a lot about it.
While some commentators have characterised bloggers as lonely, desperate souls in search of validation for their meaningless lives, recent medical research has indicated that the opposite might actually be true: bloggers appear to be less lonely and feel more connected and supported than those who don't blog.
Swinburne University researcher James Baker, along with Swinburne colleague Professor Susan Moore, will soon publish a paper in the journal CyberPsychology & Behaviour which concludes that people who blog feel less isolated and more satisfied with their friendships.
Their research focused on new MySpace users and tracked their emotional states after two months of social networking and blogging.
It found that all respondents felt less anxious, depressed and stressed after two months of online social networking - but those who blogged felt better about their situation than those who didn't.
Researchers in the US have concluded that blogging also makes bloggers better thinkers. US neurologists Fernette and Brock Eide conducted a survey of the blogosphere and posted their results on their own site. The research began with the proposition that our mental activities actually cause changes in the structures of our brains -not only what we think, but how we think as well.
They decided to focus on blogging because it represents a significant new activity that might be changing the way people think, and concluded that blogging can be a powerful promoter of creative, intuitive and associational thinking.
The sheer ease of being able to publish a blog online promotes spontaneous connections and fosters creativity. The neurologists also concluded that blogging promotes critical and analytical thinking because blogs, at their best, are rich in ideas and promote active exchange and critique.
Those academics' assessments are shared by bloggers.
The active exchange of ideas between bloggers is what keeps Melbourne blogger Helen, from Yarraville, hard at it on her blogspot, Blogger on a Cast Iron Balcony. Being part of the conversation about contemporary Australian politics has become a creative outlet for her.
"With people that you know offline - not through blogs - you like them and spend time with them but you can't always talk about interesting things with them," she says.
"You can't just go up to a stranger in a pub and button-hole them and start talking about interesting things, either. But with blogs you can find a community of people who are interesting to talk to."
And while Helen is not one of those bloggers who like to reveal all about their personal crises online (and there are plenty who do), she still derives emotional support from her online network of friends.
"When I went through my own personal 'dark night of the soul' a few years ago, I certainly got an emotional boost from people reading my blog, liking my writing and having the mastery of that," she explains.
"I would definitely say that I was saner as a result of blogging."
Part of that increased sanity is derived from learning the craft of writing and receiving immediate feedback on her work.
"With my blog I have to write posts that people want to read. If I don't write in a way that is interesting then no one will read it, and I like that - it's sink or swim," Helen says.
Another blogger who shares her enthusiasm for blogging is Claire Robertson, a Melbourne artist and author of the hugely popular Loobylu. Robertson says that the discipline of sitting down to construct a readable 400-word post has definitely made her a better writer.
"My dad is my grammar and spell checker but I find I am getting far fewer phone calls from him these days saying 'you've got an apostrophe in an 'its' that shouldn't be there'," she laughs.
When her second child was a baby, Robertson found the rigours of keeping up her blogs took too much time from her young family so she put her blogs into hiatus for a year. Early this year she began posting to Loobylu again because she missed the creative community she had been part of.
"Now that I have life under control a bit again, I am doing my own creative work and feel I have something to say again," Robertson says. "I love documenting my art and the development of my work and I love the feedback I get from other people who are doing creative things, too, or who just appreciate what I am trying to do. I like that others are blogging about the same sorts of things and I feel a bit like I am part of something bigger - that there are people out there who are like me, who 'get' me."
Another blogger who draws inspiration from being part of a greater "whole" is "Suze", a blogger from inner-city Sydney.
Her blog, Personal Political, derives its name from the principle that the personal is the political, so she provides insights into her life as well as comments on current affairs.
Suze says that she attempts to provide some alternative to the mainstream thought and news.
"I don't think I always achieve this, but ideally I see my blog as an alternative to the increasingly banal, superficial and celebrity-obsessed mainstream online media," she says. "I like to write. I like to grapple with the complex and difficult aspects of daily life. Blogging is a very easy avenue for doing both of those."
On the more personal side, Suze says that her blog posts help her to sort out mental dilemmas in her own mind, as well as discuss them online.
"For me, it's a two-sided process," she says. "There's the writing, which helps me in itself, and there's the comments in response, which also help. So when I have problems, it's not that I directly seek help, but the process of blogging can be therapeutic and the community really is a community."
Indeed, many bloggers find that their online and offline communities blend and intersect in ways that complement each other. Loobylu's readership includes her parents, overseas family, offline friends and new friends she has made online. She says her blog helps her to find connections more easily with new friends.
"I find people really respond to me differently once they have read my blog," she says. "It can be initially strange realising that they know much more about me than I know about them but then it's like there's a sudden connection and they might start chatting to me about things that we have in common which we would have never found out about otherwise."
Steven Noble, Sydney author of the blog Life in Chippendale has also found that his blog has helped him to form connections with people in his local community.
"I will sometimes go into my local, the Duck & Swan, and see someone I know. They'll introduce me to their friends and say something like 'this is the guy who does Life in Chippendale' and that helps to start a conversation," he says.
Noble's blog is part of a sub-genre which focuses on specific geographical locations and celebrates the physical communities around them.
Brian Ward, author of Fitzroyalty, focuses on inner-city Fitzroy, while The Adventures of ShinyShiny and Halfeman is a project of two bloggers who walk the streets of Melbourne recording obscure details and eating ice cream.
While Noble uses his blog as a forum to discuss development issues in the tiny Sydney suburb of Chippendale, his blog also documents his exploration of the quirks and gems in his local neighbourhood. "I have always been interested in neighbourhoods," says Noble.
"This is the neighbourhood that makes sense to (my partner and I) so we have been willing to invest more in creating links to the people in it."
Noble's approach clearly works. Far from the stereotype of being lonely people holed up in their bedrooms, bloggers might actually turn out to be the cornerstones of our future communities.