Thursday, September 3, 2009

Do these factors address why you blog?

My blogging command and control center

Since Delwyn's and my recent posts about the pleasures, perils and responsibilities of blogging, I have been thinking about why I/we do it.  I like applying different "templates" or theories to different phenomena to see if they "fit", and realized that Will Schutz's theory of group development could explain some of the satisfactions that keep us blogging.

Schutz's theory was that all humans come to groups with three basic needs.  These needs drive behaviors in groups - but for the most part are unconscious and unacknowledged.  The needs are:

l.  inclusion
2. control
3. openness or affection

1.  We all have different inclusion needs.  Some of us need to include ourselves or feel included in everything.  Some of us have less of a need to feel included, and may, in fact, have strategies to exclude ourselves.  Some of us have a strong drive to include others, whereas others of us may unconsciously derive pleasure from excluding others.  Inclusion needs in a group could be said to be about whether, or to what degree, we are "in" or "out".

2.  We all have different control needs.  Some of us really need to feel in control of everything.  Others of us are happy to follow, and do not want the responsibilities that control or leadership bring.  Some of us derive pleasure from controlling others, whereas others of us may not seize control but derive pleasure in subverting someone else's control.  Most of us just like to be in control of our own fate in any situation (which unfortunately is not always possible).  Control needs in a group could be said to be about whether, or to what degree, we are "up" or "down".

3.  We all have different needs with regard to openness and affection.  Some of us feel a need to divulge everything.  Others of us keep information about ourselves very close to the vest.  Some of us need to feel a sense of strong connection.  While others like to connect, withdraw, connect, withdraw.  Some of us are touchy/feely, while others are not.  Openness needs in a group could be said to be about whether we are "open" or "closed".  Or you could think of it as being about how much you are willing to disclose, reveal, or risk.

While thinking about blogging, it occurred to me that we all come to blogging with these 3 same needs for 1) inclusion, 2) control, and 3) openness.  The powerful pull that blogging has, in my opinion, is that we alone decide to what degree we include ourselves;  we have almost total control about the content, scheduling, investment we make in our blog; and, we decide how open we will be in terms of including private details about our life in our blog.

We get to satisfy these needs, with a small degree of risk, and a large measure of control.
Group dynamics are not literally involved, because most of this is a solitary task.  And yet, it is social networking from a distance and it is this distance that allows us to get our needs for inclusion, control and openness met - without having to see anyone's 'in the moment' reaction to what we do.  No one calls us to task (usually), preferring instead to not comment (not be open) about something they take offense to, and to perhaps not visit (not include) that blog again.  We alone can determine how much we reveal (how open we are) - and do not have a group member across a table asking us questions we prefer not to answer.  If someone asks something we don't want to answer on our blog - we just don't answer (control).

So we have huge control needs that are met by blogging.  The price we pay for getting our control needs met - is that we are engaged in a virtual world that could crash and burn in many different ways at any time.  And, of course, Schutz's theory does not cover every need or want that drives us to participate in this activity of blogging  -  but I think it does address some factors we might not think of off the bat.  A lot of the bloggers that I visit clearly engage in blogging as an outlet for their creativity, be it humour, writing skills, jewellery making,  artwork, photography, etc.  And there is always the old voyeurism motivation.  However, I wanted to highlight 3 driving forces that we might not normally consider.

I would be interested to hear what you think about this application of Will Schutz's Theory of Group Development to the blogging phenomonen.  Does blogging meet some of your needs for inclusion,  control, and openness or affection?    What other needs are being met for you by blogging that are not covered under the umbrella of this particular theory?  Are there other satisfactions about blogging you would like to share here?   Are there issues about blogging that you have yet to resolve (or even understand) for yourself?


  1. I have no issues with #1 and #3, and in fact am fully on board with Shutz' descriptions as you have written them. As far as control, group activities often went beyond some people's idea of control when they were confronted, or enticed, to share more than they desired. Since we can control our content, our commentary, and our level of intimacy, blogging actually provides access to more types of personalities (not just we cyber-streakers of openness), than a typical group context.
    I remain thrilled with you. And, by the way, you can reach me by e-mail at
    I am learning to blow open this commentary thing by reaching out to some of my favorite commenters on another level.

    With much love and admiration.


  2. Interesting thoughts and points Bonnie. I've never really thought about "why" I blog. Other than that I like to communicate. I like to share ideas and thoughts. I like to know what others are thinking about. I'm not as interested in the day to day minutia of other people's lives or their angsts or their gripes with this person or that person. That falls under the category of TMI and let us always remember that once we hit "send" it is out there and others can read it -- perhaps even the people you are talking about. So I'm not into blogging for that...send me an email if that's the case. I pass over those kind of blogs.

    I want to learn, to expand and challenge myself with new ideas, new thoughts. I put myself out there for the world as "who" I am, what I think, feel, believe...what moves me.

    Control? Yes, we do control what we talk about, how much, what we read...but I don't blog for a sense of control.

    I just like to talk!!! Guess that puts me in the inclusion category!! :)

  3. Wow...this post packs a whallop! While first reading, I thought.."I'm not a person that needs or likes to have control over anything but after reading your thoughts on the point, I guess I do. Inclusion is right on...almost sophomoric as far as content and what we choose to read or not read..on any given day or what we choose to comment on regarding our particular mood. The camaraderie we gain from bloggers definitely suits the affection portion. I have never really delved into the "why" I blog other than I derive pleasure from writing down some of the thoughts and sharing. Given your explanation, I'd have to agree with Schutz's theory..VERY interesting as always, Bonnie!

  4. I blog because Barry wanted me to, he's my husband and he blogs about his cancer.... it's supposed to be therapeutic for him. I like the thinking stretches from the brilliant people who blog. I love the stories, pictures and poems. I love the art people post. I love how creative people are and I like the ideas they share. There are many good laughs, comparisons and travel info. There are recipes to share, historical information and book and movie info. There is music to share too. My life is being enriched. My ideas are being challenged. Health information has been shared with my husband too. Most of all my daughter blogs pics and stories of the grandkids. I hope this is helpful.

  5. Ahh Bonnie, you and I would have much to discuss over coffee. Our minds thing along the same lines - i.e., why do we enjoy blogging? I agree with Schutz's theory of group development. But the phenomenon in the blogging world is one that defies anything experienced until now. This medium is unique to human experience. I think you came as close to anyone thus far in trying to find its essence. Inclusion, control, and openess/affection are the main ingredients certainly, but what I think is unique is the level of encouragement found through blogging. We actually encourage and help each other attain goals. The Theory of Scarcity doesn't seem to apply. Since we are not competing for scarce resources - they are many blogs - we are much more giving of our expertise, talents, time, etc.

    Does this make sense, or am I being redundant?

  6. EFH:

    That's a good point. People who would shy away from the control issues in an actual group situation can partipate fully here without fear of being over-powered in any way.

    Ahhh, you are making me blush. I'll tuck away your e-mail address for future use.

  7. Sherry Lee:

    Good reasons all: to communicate, to challenge yourself, to learn, to find new ideas, to express. Yes, all of that is 'inclusive', but to my mind it really speaks to how 'open' you are too.

  8. Alicia:

    camraderie, pleasure from expression, and if I may add, your blog expresses a lot of creativity.

  9. Linda:

    Wow - what a comprehensive list of reasons why to blog. Please permit me to summarize them:
    * for thinking stretches
    * for enrichment
    * for health information/resources
    * for record of family details
    * for challenge to ideas
    * for creativity
    * for content: stories, pics, photos, recipes,
    travel info, historical info, books and
    movie info, art
    * for good laughs
    * for thought-provoking comparisons

    Thank you so much - I'm sure you have articulated reasons that drive many of us, but which we had never really pinned down!

  10. Interesting! I blog mainly as a platform to share my creative ideas, and express things that i may not be able to express to those around me in my everyday physical life. I definitely enjoy connecting, and the little "conversations" with all manner of creative souls that blogging makes possible.

  11. Nancy:

    Thanks Nancy, these are some really key factors for me and I'm so glad you articulated them:

    * the generous offerings of encouragement
    * their is no scarcity of the resources that are available to us as bloggers and so we can share liberally
    * the sharing of expertise and talent

    Woo-hoo - I'm loving all that is coming out in the comments here!!!

  12. One Little Simitopian:

    Great - more reasons and satisfactions:

    * a platform for creative ideas
    * to express what may not be expressed elsewhere
    * connections and conversations with other creative souls

    Thanks so much - I'm loving it!

  13. Because I married an INTJ, my social life is not what I'd envisioned it would be, and then add to that a child with autism, and well, you can imagine that this ESFJ has to find an outlet! :c) Socially, I've been living in a bubble for years, and blogging meets the need to connect with others, while exploring my own life journey as well. As another blogger said once on my blog, "you are one of the nicest people I've never met!"

    I learn, I grow, I laugh, I feel for people's situations, and that enriches me and my journey. You are another jewel along my path Bonnie.

  14. I never thought about it with these terms but I think you are right :))

  15. Wow this was very interesting thank you for sharing this.

    I have to say as a single mum that has no other adult in my house to talk to or express my feelings to. I spend almost every night alone. Blogging defiantly helps me feel included. I am generally open on my blog as writing what is happening helps me as I have no one in the house to express it to.

    Blogging stated of as a way of challenging my photography. I think my work has grown but so has my blog and now represents far more then my photography.

  16. Not so sure about Schutz's theory - I need to ponder those three pointers a little longer. I do think, however, that Herman Melville put it best when he said, "We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibres, our actions run as causes and return to us as results." A perfect description of blogging, don't you think?

    I began blogging because I wanted to record moments in my life which hold special resonance for me. But, mostly, I started blogging for the same reasons that Alistair Cooke read those ‘Letters From America’ until he was an octogenarian. I'm an expatriate and most of my friends are scattered around the world. Each post is a letter home, wherever that is, and it's also a letter about home, wherever that might be. It's a letter to some child not yet born, and to the friends, strangers, sisters, brothers and former classmates who might stop by. (Funny how those circles overlap.)

    It is a journal for my children and grandchildren about the things, people, and places that I love. I could store up enthusiasms until I burst, but writing them down is a better way to absorb and share them. And, much to my surprise and delight, I discovered the joy found via "invisible threads" and "sympathetic fibres" - those human connections made along the way. I realised, too, that blogging brought the lovely comfort of strangers – and that fantastic buzz of interaction between like-minded people throughout the world. That for me was the big WOW factor!

    And, let’s face it, blogging has a great beat and you can dance to it!

  17. Hi Bonnie

    another great subject and lots of deep and thoughtful responses.

    A couple of things jumped out at me and one was when we look at group dynamics it by nature takes place in groups, now we operate in isolation so something different is happening here...

    and that leads me to my next point...
    the theorist says that these needs are largely unconscious and unacknowledged so perhaps most of us have not thought about this seriously before ...

    and then the idea of control at first sounded strange to me but the more I thought about it the more perfectly it describes what we do - we are in absolute and total control of our every facet of this medium (save for silly Mr Blogger's technical hiccups).We choose when where, who, why, how much, how little, who to comment to, who to follow, what to write, we hold an endless list of details that we totally it is very difficult to compare this interaction to other group situations where there is an interplay of interpersonal dynamics.

    I imagine many people blog for company, for sharing, for discussions, for connecting, and as in the real world each of us varies with our needs for inclusion.

    I am often surprised to hear how many people claim to be quiet shy or retiring personalities. Perhaps blogging functions to give those of us in that category a safe way to interact because we are in control of the situation that we put ourselves into.

    I think that we have come up with some key word here

    safety in risk taking

    I think there are two different levels of motivation operating here.
    There are these need motivators that you have outlined above and then there are the more obvious reasons that we think and say we blog for

    reading material
    sharing skills

    Much food for thought Bonnie...

    Happy days

  18. hi bonnie - thanks for popping this worthy question up in the air where we can all see it. i've asked myself a similar sort of question from the moment i clicked on the blogger link to begin the process of beginning.
    so the reason, the rationale, the expectations, the relationship i have with blogging have been dynamic through the course of my blogging.

    my blogging is about placing a feature of myself where i can see it.

    that feature? to place an element of my self as fully as is feasible in a community of people who celebrate, question, interpret, confront and create their lives.

    i love the journey.


  19. I blog because my life has become narrow and self-contained. I live in the country and I live in an area populated with people who are very different from me. I no longer show my horses so my activity and socializing has changed. So I started talking to a computer screen. After awhile it started talking back.

  20. Jayne:

    Thank you for more good reasons for blogging:

    As an extrovert living with an introvert husband and a child with autism, you needed an outlet for your natural desire to express.

    * a place to exercise our empathy
    * for enrichment

    Thank you Jayne. Jayne's initial of INTJ and ESFJ are codes for the Myers-Briggs assessment of factors in personality types. Jayne knows her husband's type and her own based on these tests. I stands for introvert. E = extrovert. T = thinking, F = feeling. So when we live with someone with totally different ways of being in the world - we may have to find our own separate ways of expressing ourself - just as Jayne describes she has done. Thanks Jayne!

  21. Turquoise Diaries:

    Thanks for considering my little twist on how we might perceive some of our motivations for blogging!

  22. Tessa: I do not mean to suggest that Schutz's theory is the be all and end all of why we blog - simply an added perspective. Funny that you cite the Hermann Melville quote. I posted it on Aug 22 as my entire post. Love that quote and love the many reasons you list for blogging:

    * record life's special moments
    * acts as place for "letters home"
    * a place for letters to a child as yet unborn
    * a place for letter to circles of relationships
    * a journal for children and grandchildren
    * joy of discovering "sympathetic threads"
    * joy of comfort from strangers
    * joy of "buzz" of connections

    Thanks so much Tessa, for some fresh "spin" on the values in blogging.

  23. Hi Delwyn:

    Thank you for your comments and lists (now I won't have to list them!).

    I was not trying to compare what we do to group situations per se, I was trying to take a theory of individual needs in group situations and apply it to a totally new way of interaction - blogging. While we do become a group of sorts, by means of who we follow and comment to (and vice versa) on a regular basis. Anyway, my intent was to simply apply the 3 basic needs that Schutz identified as coming into play when we interact with several people on a regular basis.

    Yes, it seems so many of us recoil at the thought of "control". No one ever wants to admit control needs - no one ever wants to be controlled. Yet we are fundamentally creatures who need to feel some sense of control. It is actually crazy-making to have no sense of control over your life. And as you discovered, control does play a part in everyone's blogging journey. As you make the link, control allows us to feel safe and to take more risks. Perhaps that is what allows so many to be so open in this forum.

    Thanks Delwyn - your insights always take the discussion a step further.

  24. Steven:

    So you blog to put an element of yourself, outside of yourself where you can see it - and because you love the journey of it. Interesting.

  25. Sandra:

    So you are saying it gives you a way to "socialize" with people who are different from the people in your community. So we could say:

    * for socializing
    * for diversity
    * to dispel loneliness

    Thanks Sandra. I just love this ever-growing list!

  26. Just an added comment from me.

    As I have been processing your comments (literally and figuratively) I have realized that one of the satisfactions I am deriving from blogging is that of being of service. I know I am not the only one. This does seem to be a forum where there is an amazing generosity of spirit, with people willing to share information, resources, encouragement, empathy, etc. I have found it to be heart-warming.

  27. Bonnie,

    This was very interesting to me and the more I read the comments about your blog and your comments back, the more I began to relate to what you were saying about this, esp. control and connection. I work from home, a situation that may change soon, because I am feeling too isolated here. But I see that one of my reasons for jumping into this blogging thing was not only to connect and feel part of something, but to have some sort of control over BEING connected.

    I know for many women out there, and men, I suppose, this world offers few opportunities to be connected in a way communities used to provide. We all work our lives away, and come home, cook dinner, sleep and do it all again. There are no coffee clatches, no pot luck gatherings (well, some, but not here) few moms home with kids during the day. Everyone is isolated in LA just pushing to survive the high cost of living.

    So blogging is a place to connect with other people for me, also a place to share and gather knowledge. I find it interesting that it's invisible to us as a motivation. Perhaps the unknown element to it is motivation in itself--what makes it fun to do? Whatever my real reasons, I'm enjoying the connection I find here, however temporary or long-lived it may be. Thanks Bonnie.

  28. Barbara:

    Thanks for dropping in, I always look forward to your take on things.

    So let me construct your list:

    * a means to dispel isolation of modern life
    * to have control over your connections
    * to compensate for ways to connect that have been lost in this modern, busy world
    * a place to share and gather knowledge


  29. Absolutely! I started blogging when my children were babies. I needed to do something. Blogging provided me with a way to help others at my convenience. :)

  30. Fantastic post, Bonnie!
    My life changed dramatically once I started blogging. I began as a way to learn to use my voice, to release my fears and to reach out to others. I think you are right here with Schultz's theory. I have developed so many close friendships through blogging. I love how we all inspire one another. Someone will post something and next thing you know everyone is talking about the issue, sharing their voice and broadening our perspectives on the subject. It is absolutely wonderful! I love it! I work in the legal field which is not very creative so for me, it is definitely a creative outlet...allowing me to develop that aspect of my self.
    Thanks for this great and thought-provoking post!
    Have a Happy Day!

  31. Very interesting post. As far as the three reasons: 1) inclusion - True, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about blogging. But it also gives me a chance to write, and to have people validate my sense of humor. 2)control - That's a big issue with me. So I like having control of my blog, answering others, or not, and writing what I want. 3) Openness - Well, you've read some of my posts. :) I'm an open book. I tell everything. Sometimes that's not good, I know. But I can't help it - I'm Italian! My whole family is like this!

  32. Sneaky Momma:

    Another good reason why we blog:

    * to offer services when convenient - at any time of the day or night. Convenience being the key word!

  33. TheChicGeek:

    Well you've added another not yet on the list:

    * personal growth (to learn to use your voice, overcome your fears, and reach out to others)
    * to inspire and be inspired
    * to develop right-brain, creative proclivities
    * to broaden your perspective

    I'm just blown away by everything you commentors are bringing to the table!

  34. Pat:

    So you wanted to:

    * include yourself in this 'new' phenomenon
    * to validate your talents as a writer and a comedienne

    Well, you have certainly accomplished those two goals and a whole lot more!

  35. I would have to ponder for a while before I wrote a detailed and thoughtful response to your post but I agree with the ideas expressed.
    Some of us really thrive on connection to others and really long to be included. Also creative types love an audience and we all long to be loved.
    For me blogging is great fun and I have turned blog-chums into real world friends.

  36. Elizabeth:

    Thank you for dropping by and taking time to comment. You have added a couple of new reasons, not as yet on our list:

    * to find an audience
    * longing for love
    * the fun of it
    * possibility of blog-friends becoming real world friends


  37. Bonnie, I began blogging just to see if I could... to keep a record of thoughts, photographs, journeys, & time with my husband & dog.
    Blogging turned out to be more rewarding than I ever expected it could be. When I started I didn't know I would come in contact with people from all over the world who are seemingly like-minded in their attitudes and hopes. I have found that visiting virtually with like-minded people is more rewarding than visiting with in person with people who do not have the same values as I.
    I blog for the "artistic" outlet of sharing photographs, to continue to discover that there are many people out in the world who are open-minded, caring, and sharing individuals.

    So to answer your question it is the inclusion of like-minded people that I love about blogging and the virtual affection that is expressed through blogs & comments of blogs. It is a great way to keep a journal and more interesting than a paper & pen journal... it is complete with photographs, drawings, poetry, and quotations.

    Thank you for writing this post it is enlightening.

  38. wow! thanks for another great blog post!
    Customized application development


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