At our house last night we had a Hanukkah party with a mix of friends and co-workers. We had a dozen kids over and they loved lighting menorahs and playing dreidel for chocolate hanukkah gelt. I got joy watching kids who have never done this before having a blast too.
In the midst of the latkes and blintzes, I overheard a conversation about blogging that –while it may not have surprised my seasoned interweb colleagues– shocked me a little. A senior scientist mentioned googling a potential faculty recruit and found the person’s blog describing the trials and tribulations of a life in science. The faculty member said the blog, while it was to be commended for its forthright tone, was so informal and laced with profanity that the professor could not help but hold the blog against the potential faculty member. A second senior scientist nodded in agreement. It was the consensus that aspiring young scientists should steer clear of such activities.
“Wow, that blog sounds like any one of a number of people I know,” I thought. Over the past year, I have made friends with a friendly group of scientist-bloggers whom I have grown to admire for their passionate activism. The comments of my interwebophobic colleagues sent a chill down my spine. Real negative consequences of speaking one’s mind on a personal blog. Yikes. Of course, people get in trouble for what they say on the internet/twitter..but yes, I am just coming to the realization that there are consequences within the science community for saying things about that community. Community, hm.
To my pseudonymous colleagues, this is old news. This story only provides the “derp” for why one should take care with one’s identity while blogging/tweeting. I wanted to bring this up here for young folks starting out so they do not have any illusions about how the world may or may not be changing in terms of online communication. If you don’t have tenure yet, use a pseudonym.
And I’d also like to express disappointment and frustration with my old guard colleagues who saw zero problem discriminating against a faculty recruit on the basis of their personal thoughts and the tone in which they were expressed. That’s sad. Maybe if the blog revealed attitudes and ideas that were at odd’s with the mission of the university, OK. Criminal activity, sure. But filtering out faculty members for speaking their mind about the process of science seems like a stupid old guard thing to do and against the principles of the academy.
I have tenure and still feel pressure to shut my mouth. I’m not going to because in my naive brain, the whole point of tenure is having the freedom to say what I like. We are losing valuable insights by muzzling people before tenure.
“Like the Federalist Papers don’t count because ‘Publius’ wrote them?” – my mom on people who don’t take psueds seriously.