Every so often, I get an alarmingly colorful newsletter in my inbox shouting about the importance of creating and cultivating a web presence. I generally agree: if you have something to say, and if you want to get yourself out there, then creating a Real Name Spot on the Web is not a bad idea. Heck, I have even done my time leading workshops and seminars on creating this web presence. But for some reason, for me, there is a bit of a disconnect between what I know and what I do.
I know how useful a web presence can be for young academics, scholars, and scientists. I know people who have gotten job offers at least in part due to their sites and their online networking. I know about the importance of maintaining a web presence and being internet-literate when it comes to setting oneself apart for jobs and internships. I am not denying that there is a place for these things.
What I wonder about is how to best utilize them and whether or not these web-presences should be as ubiquitously promoted. There are already a lot of things to do in every day, and a half-assed or incomplete web presence says a lot more negative things than having none at all. Additionally, that web presence is the first step in developing a personal tone or voice – what you choose to put online is going to stick with you. Choosing that personal voice is a difficult, tricky, and sometimes fraught process, and one that cannot be taken lightly. As such, it is not sufficient to just go forth and create a web presence – it is important to understand what one is choosing to be present for.
Recently, I decided to take the plunge and attach a small part of the internet to my real name. I am still hesitant about some of the choices I am making about the whole thing. Honestly, I spent an embarrassing amount of time in the shower the other day debating whether or not I should include Thing A or slightly weirder Thing B. A message as potent and true as “the internet is forever” can really put a cramp in one’s style.
Still, I decided to make the plunge because I wanted to have a forum to talk about the things that mattered most to me. I wanted people who googled me now to not just get a bunch of old news from high school or blurbs from someone else’s work, but to find me. It provides me more space than a CV or a statement, and maybe one day, it can provide me with an interactive space for public and professional engagement. It’s a baby step, but I have taken it.
How about you? Do you have a professional web presence? Why or why not? What benefits do you see?