Syntagma Digital
Editor, John Evans

Do internet writers work too hard?

Hercules The New York Times has a rather gloomy piece on how bloggers are dropping dead like flies, apparently overcome by the strains of the 24/7 global internet culture.

Personally, I’ve not known a blogger who has slumped lifeless over a keyboard (touch wood). I imagine people pass away at inconvenient moments in many professions. Blogging and writing from home must have its share of dicky tickers like any other walk of life.

However, the NYT has chapter and verse :

Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December. Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.

From these few examples you would have to subtract the number of deaths and heart attacks in the general population to arrive at a guesstimate of internet publishing’s real rate of attrition.

No doubt there are serious stresses and strains working in the new online environment. However, a word of caution. Anyone who has worked for newspapers to tight daily deadlines will recognize the same pressures and symptoms. Journalists are not notorious for their alcohol consumption for nothing.

And try slaving in a factory, repetitively doing the same tasks thousands of times a day. Or surviving the water-cooler politics of office life. Worse, the back-breaking toil of farm work. There are no easy options in “the world of work”.

Methinks the problem lies, as ever, with meetings, travel, networking and other inconsequentials of the wired-up sector. Networking for the internetizen means Twittering and Tweeting incoherently to hundreds, maybe thousands, of “followers”, mostly without a shred of benefit to the bottom line. Email is another source of stress and should be stamped on ruthlessly, as Michael Arrington of TechCrunch wrote a day or two ago.

The Times has this quote from him, “‘I haven’t died yet,’ said Michael Arrington, the founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, a popular technology blog. ‘At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen. This is not sustainable,’ he said.”

Syntagma’s advice : drop the Tweets, do the paid work efficiently — a three-hour morning should suffice — then get out of the house on a long Photowalk, or maybe to the golf course or coffee shop (preferably without a Hotspot), and forget about the Labours of Hercules. He was a mythical character and is not one to emulate.

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