Sunday, October 7, 2007

Develping my online identity

I have been thinking about online identity for some time and mulling over the aim of this blog, what my identity will be, and what the problems with this are. On the one hand I want to have a professional blog that attracts readers, informs them and becomes a productive part of the blogging community. At the same time, I think it is important that readers catch a glimpse of who I am as a person. However, I believe there is a real tension between the two things and the potential problem is that people such as employers or potential employers may be prejudiced against me by my writing especially if I am challenging or questioning in my opinion. Or, the 'personal' side of me may be seen to be unprofessional. For example, I have posted several posts today about the Rugby World Cup-is that professional behavior, or of any particular interest or relevance? So I am very conscious about what I blog and would say that I am not as provocative or questioning as I would like to be. Having said all that, what is the difference between publishing here on this blog and in a professional academic journal - my reputation will depend just as much on what I publish in journals, yet I never angst about that.

I am also conscious about the language I use and the way I write my blog. I wish to attract midwives and women who are interested in midwifery and childbirth, not just academics. So I think it is really important that I write in a relaxed manner that is easy to read and enjoyable. I have really enjoyed reading the blog of GrĂ¡inne Conole, Professor of E-learning in the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University. She has a really user-friendly way of writing and she displays a great sense of humor. That has really attracted me to her blog and makes me feel that she is approachable, despite being a 'professor'. This in turn has prompted me to leave comments on her blog.

Going back to my online identity, I have been challenged in my thinking by several articles by Michele Martin who has been pondering the same issues of online identity and transparency. Michele contends that one should be transparent in order to be honest and show people how your processes work. To be transparent online, one has to be transparent with oneself which promotes learning. Exposing oneself may be a frightening prospect but Michele believes it is rewarding. At the same time, it is probably very advisable not to write about unprofessional activities such your drinking binge at the weekend. Michele contends that employers are more likely to value a person who is multi-faceted with strengths and weaknesses.

So my reflections on all this: you cannot live your life designed to keep in people's good books all the time, and I would say that applies equally to your online life. Displaying critical thinking and reflection is more likely to add to your professional identity than detract from it. So whilst I will not be posting details of the orgy I attended at the weekend, I won't stop celebrating England's famous rugby victory this morning! I look forward to reaping the rewards of being more courageous and transparent in my postings.


Sue Waters said...

As I said in response to Michele's post -- it is important for your online identity to reflect who you are.

The more people can relate to you as an individual the more likely they will be to connect with you and make the time to assist you. Really it is no different from f2f -- think about it you are more likely to buy into helping someone you know well than another that you have minimal connection to.

So speak your mind -- but think about whether you would say it in real life. If you would not say it in person than don't say it online. Also online text does not have the same visual clues as in person -- so what you think may be okay may not be taken the way you intended. But thats okay, just like in real life we need to clarify what we really meant sometimes we need to do the same in the online world.

Actually some of my most popular posts have be my totally meaningless rants, which people think have been so funny, but have shown them the human side of who I am.


Sarah Stewart said...

As a matter of interest, how did it take you to feel you have an online identity, Sue?

Sue Waters said...

Do you mean "how long did it take me to feel I had an online identity?" -- I suppose the answer if I was in a different situation I never thought about online identity -- probably naive. People would talk about having a voice etc but I did not get what they were saying at the time. I just got on doing what I was doing and people started recognising me for the work I did.

As I have so many sites people know me through the different I have people that have contacted me because they relate to my podcasts, others that are fans of my wiki, different people that are into my blog and now people who know me through twitter. Together they make my online presence. And people see me as an 'expert' because of these sites --- what is the crazy thing because you can be doing great work but people not realising that you are.