15 December 2010

Living out loud

Johnny Blaze got it right:

“You can’t live in fear.”

It never occurred to me to blog as anyone other than me.

Of course, when I started blogging, there weren’t a lot of other scientists blogging. There was no model to follow or pattern to emulate. (This might explain why the first years of the blog... failed to find an audience.)

What are the advantages to blogging as yourself, under your real name? One advantage is that you can cultivate some of the patterns of behaviour that serve people well in face-to-face conversations. Knowing that you’re accountable for everything you put out there can help you to remember to shut up sometimes. Not to insult people gratuitously. To make a point without making an enemy.

And it always seemed to me that being a scientist was supposed to be about accountability.

As John Wick wrote somewhere, “You own every word that you speak.” I’ve tried very hard to live up to that ideal. That’s not to say that I’ve never annoyed or offended anyone; I have. My hope, though, is that in the long haul, being accountable and willing to admit mistakes will put my balance on the positive side.

Some people avoid being online because they want to be “off the grid.” If you’re a scientist, this is a fool’s errand. Your name is in Google Scholar, on your university website, and who knows how many other places.

If you don’t use your name, you forfeit control over it. Marketers like to say that your brand isn’t what you say about you; it’s what other people say about you. Everyone googles everyone else. If you leave it to others to define your web presence, you might not like what they say. By blogging under your own name, you can actively shape your digital destiny.

I also wonder if one unspoken reason people might not blog under their own name is the fear, not that people will notice, but that they won’t.

External links


Unknown said...

i would also suggest psuedonymous bloggers are more prone to cynicism and negativity. If you are expressing frustrations, doubts or annoyances at people nearby or the things that you are working on, then its easier to do behind that wall. Its also harder when psueudonymous to trumpet your success

Psi Wavefunction said...

Meh, I blog under a pseud to hide from random online people more than hiding my online persona from offline ones. In fact, my blog is listed on my CV and most of my offline friends who care about such things know my pseud. But I'd rather not be harassed by random internet people I don't give a flying fuck about (eg. trolls). And I share my real identity pretty liberally with reliable internet people, particularly those with established academic affiliations.

Likewise, I don't want random offline friends being overly familiar around my online persona; having a mix of professional and personal contacts on facebook is already awkward enough >_>

So maybe it is hiding, but not the cowardly kind, in my totally unbiased opinion ;p

Zen Faulkes said...

Psi: Some people have good reasons to hide. And I don't mean that as sarcasm or say it to be a smartass.

Tara C. Smith said...

Indeed. If I had to go back and do it all over again, I probably wouldn't blog under my own name. I don't do fuzzy animal research anymore (swabbing them usually doesn't inspire the outrage and death threats that infecting & killing them does), but I've had HIV deniers show up in person at my damn office in addition to attacking me online and writing letters to my chair, dean etc. trying to get me fired. There are definitely real, valid reasons to want a degree of separation from your public name.

Zen Faulkes said...

Tara: I’m much more sympathetic to pseudonyms than I used to be because of stories like yours. But such situations are still so disappointing on so many levels.

Researchers are being driven into a closet. And that’s a pretty crappy place to be.