It started with a well-meaning post from Joe Thornley, of Thornley-Fallis Public Relations, one of the savviest PR companies around. Their embrace of social media cheers me up immensely, and Joe writes interestingly and often about how blogging and other social media tools can be used as part of an overall public relations strategy. But when he called blogging an essential for new PR practitioners, a red flag went up for me. He advises students:
I do not hire entry level people without looking at their blog, following their twitter stream and checking their Facebook presence. I want a sense of who they are over time, not just when they are in my office. I want to know what they think on the issues they care about and how they express themselves. I want to see whether and how they connect with others. And I can find out all those things from their social media presence.
It’s not really Joe’s post specifically that bothered me. It’s how it will be interpreted by students eager to line up that first job. I’ve already seen what I call “the rise of the pundit” drain all the personality out of a huge part of the blogosphere. Eager to show how much we know, many of us now use our blogs as soapboxes, hoping to be noticed and hired. Maybe I’m just a crotchety old blogger, but I miss the days when blogs were an extension of a person’s whole life, not just of their job.
In fact, the advice Thornley gives to these students makes me afraid that their “blogs” will be nothing more than collections of sycophantic links to the people they want to notice them, or empty boosterism of a career they’ve yet to fully try on. When the doubts come, and the disappointment, and they finally have something interesting to say, will they be afraid to say it on their blogs?
I’m rehashing a lot of what I said in my comment over on Joe’s site, but one thing I want to repeat is that it would be a real shame if the blog became just an extension of the resumé.
I’ve had a few wobbles lately about crossing the boundary here and talking about work, but ultimately, I want this space to be a true representation of what I am thinking about and struggling with over time. If I was beginning my blog in 2008 instead of way back in 2000, I don’t know if I’d be able to hold that conviction with any confidence. And I find that sad.
Rebecca Blood, pioneer weblog historian, wrote way back in 2000 in Weblogs: A History and Perspective:
As corporate interests exert tighter and tighter control over information and even art, critical evaluation is more essential than ever. As advertisements creep onto banana peels, attach themselves to paper cup sleeves, and interrupt our ATM transactions, we urgently need to cultivate forms of self-expression in order to counteract our self-defensive numbness and remember what it is to be human. We are being pummeled by a deluge of data and unless we create time and spaces in which to reflect, we will be left with only our reactions. I strongly believe in the power of weblogs to transform both writers and readers from “audience” to “public” and from “consumer” to “creator.” Weblogs are no panacea for the crippling effects of a media-saturated culture, but I believe they are one antidote.
It’s getting harder to fly that idealistic flag, but I’m not ready to give up yet. The question is, how do we teach students to be fearless when they are being taught to blog in college to make them better employees?