Why blogging is addictive (for me, at least)

As you might know, I never planned on starting a blog. I just started it on a whim one day, and have been hooked ever since. When I re-read the article “How to make any behavior addictive” by Marelisa Fabrega recently, it resonated with me on several levels: It is a neat framework and I am convinced it would likely work for most behaviors I would like myself to develop as a habit. And it can explain one habit (addiction?) I know I have: Blogging.

In the article, the six human needs are described as significance, certainty/comfort, uncertainty/variety, connection/love, growth, and contribution. So how are these met for me by blogging?

1. Significance. My blog fills a unique niche. Or at least I know of no other blog that combines oceanography and teaching the way that mine does. And I get a lot of positive feedback that all the pedagogy I write about is a lot more palatable – and relatable – to the oceanographers, climate scientists, medical doctors out there because it is applied to their context rather than delivered as “just” the pedagogy. Many people who wouldn’t typically look into articles on teaching and learning still read my summaries because all of a sudden it seems relevant to their own teaching. I find that makes my blog pretty significant.

2. Certainty/comfort. This is about gaining pleasure from doing something. I gain a lot of pleasure from blogging! I love taking pictures of every body of water I encounter, be it in my kitchen, a puddle in the street or the ocean. And I love taking the time to go back to these pictures and think a little about what it was that fascinated me when I first took them. So blogging gives me the certainty that I will take the time to be fascinated rather than rush through life ignoring all the oceanography I encounter.

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As an example: I don’t think I would have bought and installed this faucet if I wasn’t constantly thinking about how awesome water is. Might I spend less time cleaning a conventional tap? Probably. But then how awesome is it to see water running out of this tap every time you go to brush your teeth?

3. Uncertainty/variety. At the same time that it gives me certainty and comfort, blogging also constantly gives me new stimuli and takes me out of my comfort zone. For example, a while back I started illustrating blog posts by hand when before I had almost always used powerpoint. I love sketching, but putting sketches (rather than refined diagrams) out on the internet took some guts. Or a different example: I started out with a blog hosted by wordpress and then moved to my self-hosted site here, which meant taking on more responsibility for the technical side of things, which is fun and scary at the same time. And then I never know who might read my posts and get in touch, and what kind of request they might have. Variety indeed!

4. Connection/love. In the article, this is defined as “closeness or union with someone or something”. At first I wasn’t sure how that fit for my blog, but there are so many ways! Blogging helped me find a community interested in the same topics that I blog about. Many people I have never met follow my blog and approach me with questions or suggestions. Blogging has made me someone people come to for advice on teaching and learning, that people invite to give talks or workshops, so the community aspect definitely reaches beyond just the online part. And last but not least, blogging lets me feel the connection to the ocean, which was a huge part of my life throughout my studies, my PhD and my PostDocs, and which I cannot imagine ever giving up.

5. Growth. While many parts of my job could probably be done just as well by any trained monkey as by me (there, I said it!), blogging gives me the opportunity to grow. Writing three blog posts per week for two years now has made me a much stronger writer, even if only because I don’t think so much before starting, but just put it on paper to edit later (or not). Writing about articles I read challenges me to find other interesting articles on the topic and to expand my understanding. Writing about topics that aren’t my own field of research (and sad as it is, I can’t write about double diffusion every single day!) always keeps me on my toes to do proper literature research to write on a sound basis. As my blog archive grows, I see that I am making progress in building a collection of posts that are relevant for anyone working in teaching or outreach in STEM fields.

6. Contribution. My blog definitely gives me a sense of service and focus on others. As described above, I know that people come to this blog for advice on teaching and learning, and that they get inspiration from my posts. And I enjoy taking materials that I produced for one specific purpose (like a one-off workshop or consultation) and modify them into a blog post that many more people might find useful.

So I guess this framework explains pretty well why I am addicted to blogging. At least I can’t think of a reason for why I blog off the top of my head that isn’t included here. And as I said above, I can well imagine that many different behaviors can become addictive if you make sure those six needs are met. Moral of the story? Be careful when you start blogging!

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