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May 31 2010

The consequences of blogging

“I can’t deal with the statistical likelihood that somewhere, some business person with an opportunity that would help me will turn away from me because of some objectionable knowledge about me. Because of my blog. If I blog. How do you deal with that?”

I worry about it occasionally, but try not to let it bother me too much. But I may be in a totally different boat than you. Evolutionary biologists, even academics in general, tend to be a fairly godless liberal lot. While I may make some people disgruntled, most don’t care, and a lot actually like me more. Heck, I’ve even received opportunities because of my blog that I wouldn’t have received otherwise (woo getting published!).

But if you’re not lucky like me, and you still want to blog, I would suggest blogging anonymously. Even that has risks, though. I don’t think you can ever be truly anonymous on the internet, no matter how hard you try. I guess you have to weigh the costs and benefits of having a blog. It’s nice to get your thoughts out there, but if it’s crippling in “real life” without any real gain…

Are there any bloggers who have felt the consequences of blogging and have advice for this person?

31 comments

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  1. 1
    Anonymous (Trying)

    Ah.. I can’t even comment on your blog with my real name! :)

  2. 2
    ronbailey

    Take it from a 43 year old blogger who’s been at this since roughly 1998 – you don’t WANT help (or a job) from someone who has a problem with your opinion, or with something you’ve written or published. Anyone that small-minded will turn on you sooner or later.

  3. 3
    DavidDvorkin

    I worried about this at one time, both because of my blog and because of the essays on my Web site. But in the end it’s important to me be who I am, without pretense or posing, and that applies to my professional life as well as my personal one. If an employer refused to hire me because of my politics, why would I want to work there?Admittedly, it’s a bit harder holding to that position right now, when I’ve been out of work for a year, but I’m sticking to it. I hope.

  4. 4
    Kevin Jones

    Even though I never say either way really even socially, I don’t believe it is anyone’s business but my own, I do know for a fact that a manager exercised his beliefs and downsized me merely because I was not a Christian. If it was the reverse situation I may have had recourse, but as it is, the general attitude is ‘serves him right’ which makes it even harder to prove. I’ve moved on with the knowledge he is still a miserable person and will always be so despite the faith he professes.

  5. 5
    facebook-740856118

    I’ve been threatened with one lawsuit, and had a mayor send an angry reply. My advice is to remember that the public will be reading your posts and that includes employers. Make sure to back up your facts, and be prepared to publicly defend what you post.I also worked with a manager who hated my views, and had no problem spouting his views. Over the years, it became a very depressing place to work at, and I was very relieved when they laid me off. Now I’m at a much better place.

  6. 6
    Mike Brownstein

    I’m with Jen, I try not to let that issue bother me. I think you open many more doors, than shut when you blog.There have been issues with my family at times, over blog material, but that’s improved. In fact I feel a lot more positive things have come out of my blogging than negative. I have made many new connections, and done some really cool things I would never have done. So go for it!

  7. 7
    chanson

    Personally, I use a pen-name for blogging in order to keep my private hobby separate from my job. When professional contacts google me, I want the Java books I’ve written to come up, not my atheism blog.That said — even if you blog under a pseudonym — you shouldn’t get the idea that you’re totally anonymous. If you’re writing your private thoughts, and there’s one person out there that you don’t want to read them, then don’t post it to the open Internet.As far as professional contacts are concerned, however, if they happen upon my blog, it’s no big deal. Everyone’s entitled to a personal life, and it doesn’t impact my work.

  8. 8
    Andrea

    For a german blogger, blogging anonymously is out of the question. We’re required by law (!) to publish our complete name and address somewhere on our blogs, because legally we’re editors, just like any print or online magazine. And yes, one step over a line you didn’t even know existed (like mentioning a company name in an article or using an image you don’t own the copyright to) may result in an expensive lawsuit.

  9. 9
    Courtney S.

    It’s interesting to me that the commenters here seem a little judgmental. Blogging is risky. As an academic, I don’t worry too much about certain things, like my political views, atheism, or feminism, but I do worry about others. For example, feminist bloggers are often stalked and/or threatened. Also, I worry that other institutions will eye my complaints about the very conservative institution I attend askance. No one wants to worry about their employees openly airing grievances and giving them bad press online. Worrying about the consequences of your blogging is absolutely valid. You just have to do what makes you most comfortable.

  10. 10
    Arancaytar

    I can’t weigh in on this a lot, because I gave up political blogging some time in 2007 – and my stuff was so strident and poorly written/researched that I later removed it and started over with an entirely new blog dedicated to programming and mathematics instead.But I stopped doing it because it didn’t feel fun enough to be worth investing the time to so it well – not out of fear of some nebulous asshole employer who didn’t even exist outside my imagination. As Randall Munroe would say, fuck that shit. :-P

  11. 11
    The naked atheist

    To be honest, you’ll always meet people whose opinion differs from yours in some way or other, the atheistic part is just a part of life’s rich tapestry. Having said that, the stigma of atheism isn’t as problematic here in the Untied Kingdom, and certainly hasn’t been a problem for me, even after 15 years with the RAF.Where I have found similar problems is with my lifestyle, I’m a naturist and I worked in construction for many years, so I wasn’t inclined to share that one, not because it would be held against me by my bosses, but because of the difficulty in maintaining discipline among the workforce.You may find a benefactor/employer who shares your views on religion, but quite possible that you may fall out over your love of Pokemon!

  12. 12
    melina

    I’ve been fortunate enough not to experience negative consequences of blogging – yet – but I think one of the reasons for that is that I have a very small readership. I write about books and creative writing, which has nothing to do with what I do for a day job right now, which I think also helps. I think it’s perfectly legitimate to worry that what you say online can impact your job prospects (and the chances that you’ll get flamed/stalked/threatened). We’ve all heard the stories, and more employers (and landlords, and schools) do make an effort to find out about prospective employees’ online presences these days. It’s also legitimate to say, “fuck that shit,” but you have to decide for yourself what’s more important to you, and you have to decide to live with the consequences of that decision. I work in a field (law) where it can be unhelpful for an employer to know that I have interests outside of work, so I don’t use my full name on my blog, nor do I talk much about what I do for a living. Right now, it’s more important to me to not get negged from a job than it is to put my whole life on the internet, and while I know very well that a person with enough information could figure out who the real person is behind my blog, I do try to keep my identity as private as possible, for professional and other reasons. Aside from the employment issue, it is the internet. Someone, probably lots of someones, will disagree with you and may or may not burst into flames even when you say something fairly innocuous like, “I once had an Armstrong flute and didn’t like it that much,” or whatever. My point is, it may not matter if you’re not blogging about controversial topics because the internet is full of people who are just itching to create a controversy over insignificant crap, or who are desperate for some way to weed down the 700 applications they got for the one job opening and don’t like that you criticized the random dude next door who plays Puccini turned all the way up to 11 even though they’ve never met your neighbor and don’t care for opera but sometimes like to turn the Kingston Trio way the hell up or whatever, so you go to the bottom of the pile and now there are only 699 applications to deal with and, well, that’s easier. At some point, you have to live your life, because if you spend every waking second worrying about that kind of thing you will lose your mind. It’s like anything else: know what the possible consequences are, take steps to protect yourself from the ones you care about, and do what you feel comfortable doing.

  13. 13
    Alex

    I have a VERY controversial blog on gender issues and mental illness and a few other taboo subjects. I constantly worry that what I write will be used against me. But in the end, my blog and the content I post on the internet is an outlet that can never be replaced elsewhere. I only hope that my blog can bring me more opportunities than negatives…. in that hope, Jen, you are a great role model to people like me!

  14. 14
    SuperHappyJen

    Someone who reads my blog on a regular basis may know:My name. My birthdate. The names and birthdates of my children. Generally where my house is (not the exact address though that could easily be determined). What my children, parents, and husband look like. What my house looks like. The make, model, and colour of my car. And lots of trivial random facts about me that they could use to pretend they know me. Sometimes that’s scary. But I’m not willing to compromise my freedom of expression for a hypothetical threat. Plus, I’m really not that private a person.

  15. 15
    raytheist

    I am an independent art yarn dyer (for knitters, etc.). I sell directly to my end customers, individual knitters of every religious/political persuation. I’m also an outspoken atheist and online gay rabble-rouser. I do NOT link to my personal blog from my business knitting/dyeing blog, and try to avoid political stuff in my work stuff. Yet I am fairly sure I have lost customers of my dyeing business because of my personal views. It’s a toss-up for me. I treat all my customers the same regardless whatever else I might know about their views.

  16. 16
    Ian

    I think everyone is missing the chance for positive outcomes of blogging. If you get good you can get freebies (like books to review or once I got invited to a store’s grand opening) and recognition. Writing a lot online can clear your thoughts and can also be used as experience to demonstrate one’s communication aptitude.On the con side I have criticized friends a number of times, which they tend not to appreciate. I think it’s a delicate balance, but I don’t believe anyone is above criticism.Finally, while I don’t blog anonymously, I tend to leave my blog out of my email signature when I’m emailing people at school or work or other professional contacts. They can find it if they want, but I’m not going to push it on people.

  17. 17
    Hugo Grinebiter

    My site is pseudonymous, and contains no personal information whatsoever. On the other hand, even were I to write under my passport name, I would still write nothing about myself and my life. That’s not so much fear as an aesthetic choice. People could lookup (whois) my real identity if they really wanted to, but I don’t expect anyone to bother. I am self-employed, have been for 14 years, make a comfortable living, and would rather suicide than apply for a job under a boss of any kind, so the set of “potential employers” anyway contains zero members. Lucky me!

  18. 18
    Ian Andreas Miller

    I’m also with Jen, especially when it comes to the part about weighing the costs and benefits.As for me, I started blogging long after certain people started the whole “That Ian Andreas Miller guy is a condescending jackass and a pervert” thing, and I really don’t let this issue bother me. I am pretty comfortable with blogging with my full name.

  19. 19
    Beyond Dimensions

    I try to be semi-anonymous on the web. My current blog has no real readers because I never update it. I find myself more of a pen and paper gal, so I keep a real journal for most of my thoughts. But if you have to find out who I am, I tend to use the same names and avatars across the net, so it wouldn’t be hard to find me on facebook.Of course my current journal is only serving as a focal point for my two novels and fiction snipets that I have in the works. And since I’ve not posted anything to those sections yet, there’s no point in posting anything in my blog. Of course, back in the days of insane journal, live journal, and xanga I had blogs that were updated often, usually with emo-teen shit that I’m embarrassed to go back and read. This is likely why I’ve changed my internet alias half a dozen times since then. Using old ones for character names on games or as handles on websites I don’t care about. I kinda like this one, though. I think I’ll keep it. :3

  20. 20
    Not Guilty

    Well I Google myself from time to time to see what pops up. Just did it now and a bunch of news articles I’m written up ain for political activism came up. None are “embarrassing” per se, but I suppose it could bite me in the ass. I am not going to worry about it. I don’t hide my political views from anybody. Nonetheless, I will try and keep myself as anonymous as possible.

  21. 21
    lomifeh

    I’ve not had that happen to me. I follow one simple rule though. Never say anything you’d not want tracked back to you. It has served me well. Also there is no true anonymity in the end when it comes to the internet. Assume you will be found out eventually.

  22. 22
    Yellow Hatguy

    Fortes fortuna adiuvat.

  23. 23
    thorfi

    You can choose to blog pseudonymously, but it is actively difficult to remain pseudonymous if people are actually serious about looking behind the curtain.Unfortunately, that means if you want to post things that are controversial, there are real consequences to that. That may or may not be a problem for you, and it may be more or less valid for you to therefore choose not to blog, or to choose to try to remain pseudonymous.There are a number of reasonable techniques to help in remaining pseudonymous – but you will need to do a lot of research if you want to use them properly. Protecting your privacy is genuinely a difficult problem. Doable, but it’s not trivial, and you can’t afford to slip up. Single-site browser apps, secure web proxy solutions, gmail or run your own domain address.

  24. 24
    cobolhacker

    “…some business person with an opportunity that would help me…”Then maybe you shouldn’t be working for that person. They’re going to figure out what you’re thinking sooner or later and the same problem will arise, you may suffer for it, only then you’ll have the additional regret of not having said what you needed to say.”I would suggest blogging anonymously.”I disagree. People who blog anonymously are cowards. If you aren’t willing to stand by what you say/write then what is the purpose of you? Suppose that sounds rich coming from a guy who writes under a pen-name, but I do it to help keep my online existence separate from offline one (in my own head).If it needs to be said, then say it.

  25. 25
    Courtney S.

    Wow, you are kind of an asshole. It is not cowardice to blog anonymously. You must be in a position of extraordinary privilege to view blogging as a risk-free activity. Not everyone can afford to eliminate job opportunities because of controversial online activities (or is willing to forgo those activities because of their employment). Not everyone is willing to risk the threats and/or violence that can come from blogging. So check your privilege before you say something that makes you sound like an asshole.

  26. 26
    Dr. Harl Delos

    I’m a deist, and I talk with God regularly. She tells me that academics in general tend to be anti-church, but not anti-god, and that most of them are deists. On the other hand, that’s trivia, and it doesn’t really address your point. What does address your point is Popeye’s Law. .Everyone works with their brain to a certain extent; if all you do is press a button on a punch press, you can be fairly certain that your job will soon be automated. However, knowledge workers are hired because they don’t do what they are told, but in fact they figure out what needs to be done, and they do it without their boss giving them detailed directions. .That means when one hires a knowledge worker, one has to have a fairly good idea of who that worker is. You don’t want someone who’s plain vanilla. You want want someone who will put a very personal stamp on their work, someone who stands proudly and says “I yam what I yam and that’s all whut I yam’ and if that means laughing at religious fundamentalists and baring her hooters to scoff at them, that’s what it takes. Standing out by creating a memorable blog will certainly weed out the potential employers who want racks unracked and hidden as if they are shameful, but trying to pretend you’re someone other than yourself is an exercise is frustration, anyway. One is looking for a dozen potential employers (so there’s quite a bit of bidding up of your salary offers) who find you ideally suited for their organization. .Zig Ziglar said it’s important to be a meaningful specific rather than a wandering generality, and while I suspect he’s of a mind to hide all female secondary sex characteristics under a bushel, and perhaps even a majority of companies where that’s policy, it only takes an eager dozen to fight over you to result in a job that is really rewarding..To thine own self be true. It’s not only cowardly to blog anonymously, it’s counterproductive.

  27. 27
    A Scanner Darkly

    Well, for one thing I blog under three different identities, all with false details (on one profile, I apparently live in Paris – I wish!) so anyone looking to find my blog would have to dig deep. Secondly, I feel that if a prospective employer is going to actively seek those blogs, it proves to me that they can’t be trusted. I’m being asked to take them at face value, so I expect them to do the same for me.And thirdly, if they have a problem with me holding opinions then it’s very likely that I’m not going to get along with them and the job is just going to bring misery. I like to avoid being miserable.

  28. 28
    Andrew Hall

    I had to give up my job as a lion tamer because of my blog.Who would’ve thought Panthero leo would be Theists?http://laughinginpurgatory.blo

  29. 29
    Beyond Dimensions

    I have to agree with Courtney. It’s nice that you are in a position where you can spout off whatever you please, but most industries in America aren’t quite ready to accept people like that, yet.

  30. 30
    Ian Andreas Miller

    Ita vero, Fortuna sollertes adiuvare quoque debet.

  31. 31
    Woozle

    If a potential employer has a problem with an opinion I have expressed on the web, the appropriate response is to make the case against that opinion and engage in dialogue until we reach some kind of understanding.If they can’t be bothered to do that and yet would still consider their disagreement sufficient grounds for not wanting to work with me, then I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable working for them either.

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