In its original state, about twelve (?) or so years ago, this blog was carefully disconnected from my real name. After all, this blogging thing was awfully newfangled, and goodness knows how my colleagues were going to take it (let alone academics whose Wigs were Big). However, there was a problem: I didn't want to write about my personal life, or even, particularly, to vent; I wanted to talk about my research, which seemed like a useful thing to do in a public forum. (What are these academics doing in their luxuriously-appointed ivory towers, anyway?) And while there are now more people working in my field of endeavor, there were fewer then, and there still aren't many at the moment. Which meant that my humble pseudonym wouldn't stay pseudonymous very long if I wanted to discuss specifics. Ergo, I decided to be myself.
Unlike some of the academics to whom Katherine Firth links in her post about the "Academic Purity Cult," I've never received any professional pushback for blogging (well, aside from the people who don't like something I've blogged, but that's a different issue). If anything, blogging has been helpful: for those of us teaching at regional comprehensives in small villages in upstate NY*, say, blogging comes in immensely handy for making contacts, especially with scholars who are in proximate but not identical fields. (Of course, blogging also has led to some confusion about my professional identity, given the number of readers who seem convinced that I'm a historian. But that has its upside as well...) A number of the scholarly opportunities I've had have come about because somebody, at some point, read something on this blog. Similarly, Twitter has been useful for certain types of conversation, although it's frustrating for anything long-form--and, again, it's an opportunity to contact other scholars whom I'd have a hard time encountering otherwise. (On a very practical note, for a stereotypical academic introvert like myself, typing words on a screen is a much easier way of making someone's acquaintance than being tossed into a room full of strangers at a conference.)
Still, as Katherine says, there are "academic purity" issues--the demands that scholars conform to this or that mode of dress, taste, recreation, and the like. "The Academic Purity Cult says: you can’t be a real academic and have any other attachments," Katherine argues, "[k]ind of like a nunnery." Blogging, Tweeting, and Facebooking are now far less likely to be considered inappropriate public performances of one's academic persona, especially when your own department is likely to have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed. But there's still so much scripting, I think, that goes into constructing an academic self through social media; what looks like self-revelation may just as well be self-censorship. This blog, for example, says little to nothing about my social life, my politics, my colleagues, or my students (except in a very general sense). An attentive reader will pick up which TV shows I'm watching or have watched, or notice that I'm interested in dance. But still, there's a lot of calculation involved in deciding what goes here, or what goes on my locked-down Facebook page, or what goes on Twitter. Some of these decisions have to do with ethics--once I abandoned my own anonymity, I implicitly abandoned everyone else's as well--but others have to do with those anxieties about not enjoying the pleasures "suitable" for an academic or whatnot.
*--Now, to be fair, I've only once experienced overtly dismissive behavior (to my face) because of my academic home base, although quite a few people have been startled that I do so much writing.