On the Market II: You in cyberspace
One of the ramifications of the internet age is that “you” as a presence in a variety of databases may actually outlive “you” as a physically present entity. For the job hunter, this raises a quandary – how much of yourself should you reveal on social media such as Facebook and the like? As someone who sits on search committees I am routinely informed that political persuasion, sexual orientation, marital status & child-bearing plans, hobbies, interests, food & drink preferences are NOT to be asked about and are NOT to influence job hiring decisions. But Dan is very right to worry! While no one might ask, if such info is volunteered, it can and will affect how search committees make decisions, even if it might only be subconsciously. And anything that is freely accessible on the internet has to be considered information voluntarily given. (Although to assuage Dan’s worries a bit, those that might be most put off by his obsession over a fire-bending princeling, would also be the least likely to be able to locate that info.)
So please take Dan’s advice to heart, young graduate student. Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely, keep your personal e-life completely separate and untraceable from your professional e-life.
Nevertheless, it is more and more important to actually have a website for your professional self. If and when you become a faculty member, really the only way you’ll attract grad students is to have a current and engaging web presence. Also, as academic scientist, public outreach has evolved from something that was sneered at as a distraction from your work, to something that is essential in convincing proposal review panels to fund your work. Thus, even for people at the very beginning stages of their careers, it is important that you know how to communicate your work to a wide set of audiences. Hiring committees do now look at this, and it is professional suicide to completely opt out of the internet.
Dan hides aspects of himself behind a pseudonym. And well he should. I don’t. What’s the difference? I’m a tenured professor at UCLA. For whatever it is worth, transparency adds a little bit of credibility to everything I write, with a minimal professional downside. Oh, the joys of tenure! I suppose I do risk a personal downside in potentially saying something to attract the attention of a troll army. But so far I’ve managed to avoid the egregious sins of either being a woman, or expressing dismay about video games…