Thursday, November 3, 2016

Having It Both Ways Unapologetically So

A friend of mine got some crap apparently for taking political stances online while being a political scientist.  Uh oh.  I have not received such criticism, but perhaps because I haven't been to any conferences lately.

When lecturing my classes, I try to be relatively neutral--criticizing all parties/politicians although some might get more attention than others (that would be Rummy).  In seminars, my political views don't come up as our discussion is mostly focused on the materials and not on contemporary politics.  Of course, I may have strayed from time to time.  But I think I did a good enough job as students would ask me after the semester was over about where I really stand.

Blogging and twitter have, of course, destroyed any such mystery. Any student can now easily figure out where I stand.  My blogging and my tweeting are almost entirely unfiltered (not quite) Steve.  Hence, the Semi-Spew.  Why?  Partly because I lack impulse control, but mostly because I believe
  • that providing a clear perspective is better than aiming for neutrality
  • that social media works best when people let their personalities shine through
  • and that I am a person and not just a professor.  That my social media efforts are not always with my prof hat/identity.
Yep, I want to have it both ways: to use my expertise to provide insights about contemporary international politics (and domestic politics from time to time--this election year is a wee bit exceptional) AND say how I feel about stuff as an individual.  If one were to look at my twitter profile, they would find that I don't identify myself as a Carleton professor.  The about me here at my blog also does not identify myself as a Carleton prof.  Instead, both identify myself as someone who has certain interests and expertise. 

Not all of my blogging/tweeting is super-serious either. Again, I named this blog Saideman's Semi-Spew pretty deliberately--that not everything here is fully baked.  Indeed, the joy of blogging is no editors, no lit reviews, and nothing standing between me and posting but whether my trackball works well enough to push the Publish button.

And twitter requires even less rumination/consideration.  I get involved in conversations where I just respond without doing research, without thinking about how it reflects on anyone else except me.  Of course, I can do this because I have tenure, because I have a wee bit of privilege, and because I am less restrained than many folks.

It comes down to this: I am who I am, as Popeye would say.  I am not going to filter what I say on social media to omit what I prefer, what I care about, what I like and dislike.  If someone does not like it, they don't have to read me or follow me.  And thus far, no employer has asked me to change what I do online.  Of course, that might be because I do have some filters--those completely without self-control remind me that I have a smidge of restraint. 

I do recognize that there are risks to all of this, which is why I tend to advise graduate students and junior faculty and folks new to social media to start out by focusing more on their expertise--their lanes.  But I don't think anyone should be punished by their academic institutions for expressing their own views--as long as they don't incite violence. 

Anyhow, the point here is that I want to have it both ways--that I want to be a professor and a person online ... as long as I don't tell people to believe what I say simply because I am a full professor (such a bs move).  And I think that others should do the same. 

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