Women In Academia

Having a Web Presence: Good Idea, Bad Idea, or Bleh Idea?

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?


7 replies on “Having a Web Presence: Good Idea, Bad Idea, or Bleh Idea?”

Basically a lot of my professional identity is wrapped up in the things I put online. I had multiple people come up to me at a big gala this week who wanted to talk to me about how much they loved this project that I abandoned– I have some dysmorphia, and editing footage of a person I know is me but who I couldn’t recognize as me was not a great idea– who I had never met in person before. I do stuff in person, but I always try to tie it back to my online identity. My online identity is, essentially, my resume, CV, and portfolio all in one.

But that’s because of the work that I do. I’m a disability rights activist, and a portion of my work in the past couple of years has been living the belief that people with limited ability to leave the house, who have chronic illnesses that mean they can’t predict good days, and/or who live in rural or other isolated areas are still important parts of movements and should be included in ways that are accessible for them. So, in part, my online identity as a model of how things can be done is also a product of my work. I’m also a social media contractor for disability orgs, which I’d like to turn into a legit business if I can figure out how to do so without loosing the benefits and services I need to survive/live independently.

If I weren’t in these businesses, maybe I wouldn’t have as big of an online presence. I don’t know how I’ll manage things if I ever get my degrees in Anthropology. I mean, yes, I’d incorporate new media and online presence because of believing that class barriers shouldn’t inhibit knowledge acquisition and new media is one approach to help mitigate that (it doesn’t solve it though!!! plenty of people without access to new media!). But how much would I do there? It’s certainly something to ponder.

I don’t know that an internet presence is always good in and of itself, but it certainly can help, depending on your industry, goals, etc.

I have an Etsy shop, and I’m pretty shameless about using Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook (even comments on some blogs) to drive traffic to it. And those work better than anything else I’ve done, including paid advertising. My real name and professional identity aren’t linked with any of those accounts, although they’re easy enough to figure it out.

But if I didn’t have an Etsy shop? I’d still use Tumblr, but I’d probably drop the other stuff. The only thing associated with my name and “real” job is LinkedIn, and I think that’s next to worthless. I don’t know why, but being “salesy” online about my “real” job (and name) feels offensive and squicky in a way that shilling my Etsy shop doesn’t.

While it has nothing to do with academia, I do have a blog and a Twitter that I specifically use for writing and things centered around it. I would like to write and self-publish, and my goal is to build some kind of audience before I actually put a book out. I think that if you are looking to build an audience or cater to people who are interested in a certain subject, you need to use all of the tools available to you, and the Internet and social media are excellent places to begin.

I’m with sequined below. I worry that no one will really care about what I have to say or that my take on an issue will be too simple/amateur/what-have-you. I’ve been reading the science blogosphere for ~10 years, and whenever I think I have something to say, someone else has covered it more elegantly than I can. I’ll comment on blogs (like this one, heh), and it wouldn’t take much google-foo to figure out my “real” identity from my username(s). For now I’m content to remain in obscurity.

…rereading that, it sounds more negative than I feel. Also, way to Ailanthus-altissima on putting yourself out there as the “real” you. I hope you have a very positive experience!

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