It’s no surprise that half a dozen people sent me a link the Matt Richtel’s New York Times Article (login required) about the stresses of blogging and the toll it takes on one’s health. To his credit, Matt did attempt to reach me, however phone tag and deadlines precluded our having a discussion save the one we had with one another’s answering machines.
It’s too bad. I would have added a certain amount of balance to his story – balance that I think, in the grand scheme of things was badly needed. Why? Because much as people would like to blame blogging and the strains and stresses therefrom as the culprit’s behind Om Malik’s heart attack, Russel Shaw’s fatal heat attack, or even the death (again due to heart attack) of my dear friend, Marc Orchant.
In all three cases, as well as several other examples, blogging was implicated as a singular stressor that in and of itself was responsible for everything from Mike Arrington’s 30 pound weight gain and sleeping disorder to Marc’s cardiac arrest early one December morning. The thing is, we’re talking about a couple of instances out of a group that now numbers well into the millions.
If you look on Technorati or Bloglines, or Google Reader, you can see that there are literally hundreds of millions of blogs. This means at a minimum there are millions of bloggers – so even if only a very small percentage of them blog seriously, it’s still a big number. A big enough number, in fact, that it is likely to statistically mirror the greater population at large. This means, that, as in any large group, there are going to be a few people that pass away and some of those or likely to pass from heart attacks as they are among the biggest killers of mature men and women in the US.
Personally, I see this less as a statistic that relates to blogging and more one that relates to pre-emptive care, regular checkups and healthy living. I know/knew all three individuals (four if you count Arrington) that were the subjects of the New York Times article and I can tell you with certainty that it wasn’t the blogging that these individuals did that resulted in their particular personal crises.
Marc, it turned out was suffering from about a 75% occlusion of the major arteries feeding his heart. 75%! It is amazing in retrospect that he was so energetic and robust and the sad part is that had this man, who was so concerned about being on top of so many aspects of his own life had taken a couple hours out of that busy schedule to get a regular check up his doctor would have almost certainly discovered this health emergency and ordered immediate action to prevent what was, ultimately, the inevitable outcome of this condition left untreated.
In Marc’s case I do believe that stress – but not stress directly from blogging – was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Namely that Marc was growing progressively more distraught over the games that Sam Sethi was playing with Marc’s money – that is the money Sam was contractually obligated to pay Marc and which he had lied about having, had lied about raising from investors, and had lied to us when he said it was already in the bank; which was, in both Marc’s case and my own, one of the main inducements to join his company.
My association with Marc was only for the last two years but in that time we spent a tremendous amount of time together. To understand Marc’s demeanor, the easiest way to explain it (at least to those that know me) would be to say imagine me, now imagine someone exactly the opposite. I used to say before big meetings that my job was to make people nervous while Marc’s was to calm them back down. It seemed to work well.
My point is that Marc was as even tempered as I am mercurial. The guy was quintessentially cool headed in the way that great martial artists are cool headed. He was the rock for a lot of people, myself included. Thus, during my last visit, seeing him lose his temper a couple of times over just a few days – and over traffic of all things – was quite surprising and said to me “wow – this guy is under a lot of stress. Since I’ve already said it several times I won’t bother to say again just what that stress was…
As for Om, I don’t know him the way I knew Marc, but I knew his reputation and I think it was obvious to a lot of people that physical fitness wasn’t at the top of his list of priority items. In fact, I think this holds true for all the folks mentioned in the New York Times piece. This problem is not the sole providence of bloggers. It should be a wake up call to anyone, though, who spends 8 to 10 hours in front of a computer, takes the elevator down 3 floors to the garage, hops in their car, hits the drive through on the way how and then spends three hours wearing the hair off the back of their head kicking back in their Lazy Boy before toddling off to bed with a bowl of ice-cream.
Seriously. This is not a blogging issue; this is an America is going soft issue – and I’m sure that the rate of serious health emergencies is just as bad or even worse across many professions. Moreover, while there are times when bloggers work odd hours there are very, very few that force upon themselves the sort of self-flagellation that characterized Mike Arrington’s early TechCrunch efforts let alone the lifestyle attributed to Matt Buchanen.
At the end of the day, the deaths of Marc and Russell and the near death of Om Malik are personal tragedies comprised of equal parts lack of concern for one’s health and the misfortune of a deadly genetic predisposition, they are not, as the article in the Times postulates, occupational hazards. In other words, I don’t blame blogging one bit for Marc’s death, however, Sam Sethi is another story…