Imagine that you work at a job where you are at risk for weight gain because you spend so much time sitting down, you get eye strain from staring at the computer for so long, you are expected to produce work on a regular basis, and you are at risk for carpal tunnel from sitting in uncomfortable office chairs. It probably sounds like any run of the mill desk job, but apparently the New York Times thinks all of these are new afflictions that only affect professional bloggers. In a recent article, they take the recent deaths of 2 technology bloggers as an indication of the dangers of being a professional blogger. Naturally, the blogosphere is abuzz with reactions. Gawker Media, who run Gizmodo, one of the sites chronicled in the story, "Writers Blog Till They Drop" pointed out the contradictory nature of Matt Richtel's argument.: "Blogging will make you fat, or skinny, or kill you, they write in their flagship blog, Gawker. ZDNet editor Larry Dignan reveals that he was interviewed for the story but didn't make the cut, because he wasn't killing himself enough for his readers. In his blog post, he reveals that while his day is busy, it's nowhere near the "sweatshop" atmosphere the Times writer claims exists in the world of pro blogging.

I Doubt It Will Kill You

Peanut gallery commenters were nearly universally unsympathetic to the plight of the blogger, sarcastically noting that we should get "real jobs". One commenter on ZDnet flippantly points out that "no one" reads blogs of people who aren't famous and that "I doubt it will kill you, but it will sure waste your time". Many commenters stated that there are jobs in which the danger is far more pressing. It's hard to argue that fighting in Iraq or being a police officer is a much more stressful occupation. No one is going to come after me and kill me while I write this post at my local cafe (unless of course, they really want my MacBook). Darren Rowse of ProBlogger, a site about blogging for pay, had a far more rational reaction. He says that if bloggers are stressing out, it's more indicative of the individual's personality than of the nature of the job itself: "I’m a little skeptical that blogging is any more stressful than other professions - yes it can be a pressure cooker of a job - but I wonder if it’s more about the person, the way they deal with pressure, the choices that they make and the boundaries that they put around themselves etc than the occupation itself."

It's All About Balance

Of course, underneath the snide commentary, there is some truth to Matt Richtel's words. The Internet moves fast, traffic is king, and when links are spreading like wildfire on sites like Digg and Twitter, if you want to stay on top of the game, you have to keep up. And keeping up has a price. As Michael Arrington of TechCrunch somberly says in the article, “At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen.” If anything, the Times piece should not be viewed as a phenomenon that exists only for bloggers and other Internet workers but rather as an indication of an emerging American work culture that encourages being plugged in 24/7. In the end the bottom line is all of us, bloggers and people with "real jobs" alike, need to maintain a balance so we don't let our jobs take over our lives and ruin our health. Web Worker Daily offers some stress management tips for the blogger and web worker.