Can blogging — that ubiquitous tool that allows anyone at any time at any place write down one’s thoughts, feelings or random observations — help our friendships?
According to new research, the answer is yes. Spending more time online blogging may help increase not only the number of and satisfaction with online friends, but with face-to-face friends as well.
Researchers Baker & Moore (2008) studied 58 MySpace users, 31 who started a blog after getting a MySpace account, and 27 who did not. They measure the amount of social support, satisfaction with the number and closeness of existing online and offline friendships, as well as their depression, anxiety and stress levels at the beginning of the study, and then after two months.
Bloggers [compared to non-bloggers] were more satisfied with number of face-to-face and online friends and with closeness of face-to-face friendships [over time].
[T]he tendency to count on others for assistance [also significantly] increased for bloggers. Blogging may function as a safe space where people seek out others for mutual feedback and support, fostering a sense of security and help. As satisfaction with number of face-to-face and online friends also increased for bloggers over time, it seems likely that blogging helped improve sense of community and relieved isolation and/or alienation.
These changes were not present for nonbloggers, suggesting that blogging improves social support and friendship networks through mutual feedback.
Blogging helps people feel like they have a stronger social support network, possibly because blogging helps a person gain some insight, feedback or perspective on their lives.
Take the results with a grain of salt, however, as 57% of the original participants at the initial time of the first set of measures did not complete the measures two months later (possibly skewing the results of the data). The researchers also did not differentiate successful, frequent bloggers from those who may have started a blog and posted only one entry.
Other research has shown that blogs can bring together like-minded and supportive communities, providing opportunities to relieve feelings of isolation. This study builds upon that finding, suggesting that the mechanism for reducing isolation may very well be a feeling of increased social support, and being able to count on others for assistance.
Baker, J.R. & Moore, S.M. (2008). Blogging as a Social Tool: A Psychosocial Examination of the Effects of Blogging. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 11(6), 747-749.