Several people have written me about an article in this month's Scientific American that asks: Is Blogging Good for You? Apparently, science has shown that expressing your feelings is good for your mental health. And this would seem to contradict what I said in my last post about Emily Gould. It would also seem to contradict Gould's personal experience of blogging.
Has the author of this article jumped to the wrong conclusion? Sadly, this appears to be the case.
The research on self-expression seems largely to concern a limited group of people: cancer patients, AIDS sufferers, and surgery patients. For those groups, talking about their experience of illness seems to facilitate healing.
Why so? A serious, perhaps terminal, illness causes people to withdraw from society, to the point where their isolation and despair undermine their health.
Normally, they will not want to burden friends and family with the details of chemotherapy or an exotic illness. Moreover, friends and family will also begin preparing for life without them, making them feel like they are consigned to eternity.
If they can find a group of fellow-sufferers this will function as an artificial community, roughly as AA meetings do. Connecting with others, even under abnormal circumstances, can surely be therapeutically beneficial.
Obviously, this has nothing to do with bloggers who compulsively overexpose themselves to the public at large. Talking about your experience of chemotherapy is not equivalent to sharing what you felt when your lover farted in bed. The first restores a semblance of dignity; the second jettisons whatever shreds of dignity you had left.
Besides, science has also shown that playing duplicate bridge will also improve your immune system. Without going into the intricacies of the game that I love, I will merely say that you cannot be good at bridge if you think that the bridge table is a good place to express your feelings.
Duplicate bridge is a competitive game where focus, discipline, concentration, and dispassionate thought produce the best results. I would venture that other competitive activities-- like golf and tennis-- require similar character traits.