During the Q&A period of the panel discussion with Bart Ehrman, Will Gaffney, and Larry Schiffman were asked about whether or not grad students should blog. There response was an unanimous “no.” Some of their specific reasons were concerns of exposure, that they might post things/opinions that could come back to hurt them in the job search and P&T track, and that anything that distracts them from their research and writing of their doctorate should be eliminated. I agree with the latter, but not the former.
As James McGrath noted in his summary of the session, I commented that when we interview students for our Presidential Leadership Academy we will pull up their Facebook account and ask them questions about what they have posted there. Many students have told me that in job interviews they have been required to log in to their social media accounts in order to show the interviewer a complete view of their accounts. I think the moral of my story was misunderstood. I was not suggesting that this means that students should not be on social media or blog. What I was suggesting and in fact what we teach in our Academy since all our students are required to blog, is that we all need to learn how to share and write publicly in a way that is beneficial to the community and is not harmful to our reputation.
This is a vital skill for any leader in any field, to learn how to articulate clearly and publicly on important issues.
But in order to do so one has to develop a sense of propriety. This doesn’t mean that we only say that which we feel others would find acceptable, but rather that we articulate it in such a way that what we say can be heard and respected, even and especially if others do not agree.
Ultimately we all need and want to get a job and so we do need to keep in mind that anything we say or write can and will be judged by others. So make sure that whatever you write is something the you are willing to stand behind…even ten years later. Or at least (and perhaps more importantly!) be will to say two or ten years later, “No, I have grown and I no longer hold those views.”
Finally, I do agree that when you are a graduate student, especially ABD, your primary job is to finish the dissertation. As Bart said, never again in your life will you be afforded the chance to focus solely on your research. Do not create further distractions for yourself. (My doctoral thesis would have been done a year earlier if it had not been for Bungie’s Marathon trilogy….) On the other hand, I have often found while working on my articles and books that sharing on my blog and receiving feedback has helped me break through a challenging section.
So perhaps the message to graduate students shouldn’t be “don’t blog,” but rather “don’t blog on anything other than your research!”