Why choose to blog pseudonymously?

Jun 24 2013 Published by under [Education&Careers]

Since we've been on the topic recently and a Science Careers article just came out about social media in science I thought I might take an opportunity to reiterate a couple of points about blogging as a pseud. There are a number of good ways to use social media as a scientist, but career stage and intended audience matter in how you approach an online presence. Who are you trying to engage? Just as importantly, who are you trying not to engage?

I established this blog with the intention of discussing what it's like to take on a faculty job at a research focused institution. I absolutely could have done so under my real identity, but I wanted to be as honest as possible. Sometimes my role as the PI of a lab and my role as a blogger being honest about my job are in direct conflict. I want to be able to discuss the weight of worrying about getting people paid without freaking my people out. I get overwhelmed sometimes, but that doesn't mean I need to share that with those counting on me as a mentor. A PI isn't always in the position to share the challenges of the job with their trainees.

Now, this is the internet and it's very possible that anyone could stumble across the blog and put some things together. It has happened and it will again. So I also blog with that in mind. The times I do engage someone on a topic, I make sure I do it in a way that I would if we were talking face-to-face. As others have acknowledged, pseud bloggers are still accountable for what they say, because there is a history and a link to you, even if you think no one can figure it out.

There are those who make exceptional contributions to the blogging community as TT faculty across a wide range of institutions. I don't know what went into their choice and how they approach their blogs, but I am guessing that their target audience is different than mine. Social media is a great way to engage in scientific outreach and maybe even fulfill some Broader Impacts, but that's not my goal here.

Another consideration is whether you want to build credibility from scratch or let your CV make your case. Anyone can start a pseud blog claiming to be whatever they can think up and not everyone is going to take a pseud account seriously. It takes time to establish yourself, but only a crazy person would try and pull off blogging about a lifestyle they weren't living for nearly five years - it's up to you to decide if I am who I say or a 60yo hoarder living with several hundred "pet" rats. Some will demand that they can't discuss something with you unless they know your academic standing, but it's not worth letting their insecurities affect your social media choices.

So if you're thinking about setting up a blog, I would encourage you to do so. It's been an incredibly valuable tool for me, and I gain from it in a lot of ways. Deciding whether you want to use your real name or create a pseud is a matter of choice, and likely comes down to your target audience and what you plan on discussing.

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