Mental health is highlighted more today than it has ever been. In the past, any kind of psychological issues have been categorised into one or just a few segments. However, with more intense studying practices, we now know that it isn’t as simple as putting everyone in the same boat and hoping that there is one answer to cure them all. Different psychological issues require different action.
New research shows that those suffering with social anxiety and low self-esteem, may in fact benefit psychologically from blogging. An American Psychological Association study suggests that teens in particular benefit the most from this, and it also helps them to relate more successfully with friends.
According to the lead author of the study, writing a diary that is personal to you, and various other expressive writing forms are an efficient way for a person to release tension and emotional distress, which are key to achieving a general happiness. Meyran Boniel-Nissim, the lead author, holding a PhD from Israel’s, University of Haifa, recognised that because teens are using the internet daily, then it’s the easiest way for them to communicate.
Positive Effects of Opening Up
Going online with a personal blog and maintaining it had a significant effect on the well-being of a troubled student, as reported in the published online article. Having an online community which has access to the blog caused the effects to intensify.
Having an open blog is somewhat of a vulnerable position to be in, as a negative comment could be written by anyone, which may cause detrimental effects, leading to teen depression, however, it could also open a person up to unexpected compliments, support, guidance, or even the chance to create stronger relationships.
Azy Barak, the co-author of the study and also holder of a PhD, noted that the majority of the responses from the online community were positive, which encouraged the writer of the blog to continue writing, and they grew in self-confidence.
Israel was the pond for the selection for the study, with researchers surveying students currently attending high school. The students were surveyed randomly, and must have consented to participating in the questionnaire. In total, there were 161 students selected, with 37 of those being boys, and 124 girls, and the average age was 15. Each of these students were selected because at least some of the answers they gave suggested they had distress or social anxiety, to some level.
There was a pattern in that all reports mentioned the student found it difficult to make new friends, or struggled to relate to their current friends.
For the purpose of the study, an assessment was carried out by the researchers to understand the students’ self-esteem, behaviours and social activities before, after experimenting for 10 weeks, and 2 months further on.
Blogging tasks were assigned to four groups. Two groups were to write about social problems, and the other two would write about anything they wanted to. Only one group from each were allowed to make their blogs open for comment. The content was not evaluated, nor the number of comments. It was up to the individual if they wanted to respond to comments or not, but was not a requirement. Two further groups were controlled, and either wrote a diary about their social issues, privately, or didn’t write anything. The participants in the relevant groups were asked to post a minimum of two messages each week for a period of 10 weeks.
An assessment took place by four key assessors who hold doctoral or master’s degrees in counselling and psychology. The findings showed that students had poor emotional and social states if they showed low self-esteem, or evidence of it, or chose to write about bad relationships or personal problems.
When comparing the two groups, there was a significant improvement in the levels of a student’s social anxiety, self-esteem, and emotional distress, as well as an increase in positive social behaviour for those that did nothing or for those writing a private diary. Those students writing blogs which were open for public comment showed the most signs of improvement. The results gathered at this stage were followed up two months later, where the results stayed consistent immediately after the experiment.
All of the authors involved in the study conceded that having an unbalanced ratio on gender meant that the findings of the study were limited. However, having analyzed the results further, by gender, the results showed that girls and boys reacted similarly when under the same conditions, and the results of the interventions created no significant differences based on gender. The authors hope that any future research will be subject to gender control in order to get a truly balanced selection, and to eliminate any potential limitations no matter how subtle.