This semester, I’m taking a class called “The Digital Self,” which is focused on the idea of networking online, online identities, and things of that nature. Part of the focus of the class is creating our professional presence online, mostly in order to prepare us for the job market. I have to (create and) maintain a Twitter presence and blog with this professional goal in mind. (At least, this is how I interpreted the assignment.) I already had a Twitter account, so I’m aware of the basics. However, said Twitter account (a) was created during a time when I was convinced I was going to write the most amazing book on motherhood ever (working title: The Marvelous Magnificence of Malcolm) and people would follow me to read my sage advice and my child’s witty sayings, and (b) has evolved since then include all of my interests – geeky stuff, theology, politics, etc. So, I had to consider “re-branding” my Twitter account. I left the handle (@Marvelous_M – which stands for “Marvelous Malcolm” – my son’s name) but changed the name on the account from “A Geek and Her Son” to my name. My bio now describes my scholarly pursuits with a little bit of personal info mixed in. The goal of all of this? To establish myself online as a scholar, and to build a professional network. But I continually grapple with the lines between what personal information to share, and how “professional” to make my presence.
This struggle between maintaining a “professional” presence online versus a “personal” presence – well, I find it vexing. How much of my “personal” life should I reveal? If I only post professional things, am I covering up a part of myself? Denying it, somehow? The very nature of online networking thrusts all of these problems to the forefront, as more and more information about us is posted – either by us (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc.) or by others (news outlets, friends, etc.) – in an easily searchable space. The lines between private and public are suddenly extremely blurry. When this is the case, is the creation of an online professional presence some kind of performance art?
This idea of professionalism as performance struck me as I watch people on the job market. You want to see a well-dressed academic? Go to a “job talk” (the talk academics give about their research when doing a campus visit in the hopes of getting hired). No matter how people dress for their daily teaching assignments, you can bet they’ll be wearing a suit for the job talk. I can’t help but wonder – will they teach in those suits? I mean, really? Are they just performing the identity they hope will get them hired?
Is that what I’m doing now?