In moments of introspection, I wonder if I’m so passionately opposed to fetishizing victimhood because I don’t fit neatly into a recognized victim class. No one has seen “No Irish Need Apply” signs for a century, and male drum circles thankfully went out of fashion years ago. Now, however, the New York Times informs me that I am exploited, stressed, and could very well die because of my membership in the latest victim class …. professional bloggers?
They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece — not garments, but blog posts. This is the digital-era sweatshop. You may know it by a different name: home.
A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment.
Of course, the bloggers can work elsewhere, and they profess a love of the nonstop action and perhaps the chance to create a global media outlet without a major up-front investment. At the same time, some are starting to wonder if something has gone very wrong. In the last few months, two among their ranks have died suddenly.
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.
Now I understand the science that brought us anthropogenic global warming. Two professional bloggers die, and we need to worry that blogging caused it? Once again, the media cannot distinguish between the correlative and the causative. Nothing — and I mean nothing — in this Times article provides any evidence that the stress of writing contributed to these deaths in any way, nor does Matt Richtel bother to give us any other history for the deceased, including more commonly considered contributory factors such as family history, exercise regimens, dietary habits, smoking, or anything else.
Richtel does talk to two other professional bloggers who admit that they don’t have healthy lifestyles. One sleeps only five hours a night, and the other has put on 30 pounds … even though both work from home. That would indicate that the problem has less to do with their chosen work than it does with their chosen lifestyles. One says the work exhausts him and he wants to lie down — so why doesn’t he take a nap?
Far be it from me to disabuse my fellow victims in this new class of exploitation, but …. no, actually, it’s incumbent upon me to do so. You think writing is stressful? Try managing a staff of 45 in a 24/7 call center. Try walking a beat as a cop in any major city. Drive a cab on the night shift. Serve food to grouchy patrons at a greasy spoon. Work in commission sales and know that you can’t feed your family unless you can convince others to part with their money for products you yourself wouldn’t buy on a bet.
I started professionally blogging a year ago. Since then, I eat better because I eat at home. I sleep better because I can take a rest when I need it. I lost weight because I don’t do drive-thru on long commutes to an office. I am much more relaxed because I spend all day doing what I love, rather than compensating for the stress of the above jobs, at least three of which I did myself as an adult in the last twenty-five years.
Thanks to the New York Times, I do have the answer to my introspection: I have no need of victim classes, even for myself. If making a living for constant commentary from the comfort of my own home has become the sweatshop environment of the 21st century, then we have truly reached the Golden Age of human experience.