Why I shut down my blog - Macleans.ca

Why I shut down my blog

Online rants could hurt my future career


Sham Hardy/Flickr

Writing was always an outlet for me. Whenever I felt emotionally constipated, I would grab my laptop and write my heart out. On top of the work I did as News Editor at Excalibur, York University’s student paper, I’d type out angry rants, poorly written fiction, and hazy recollections of childhood. One day I had the pompous idea that other people might like what I write, so I started blogging.

I ranted about unpaid internships, experiences in teacher’s college, and other embarrassing parts of my life. I managed to reconnect with a few old high school friends who came across my writing. My former teachers encouraged me to keep updating my blog. I was flattered that people were taking time to read my work. I was proud.

About four months and 30-odd posts later, I shut it down. Here’s why.

A friend had reminded me about the consequences for employees who blog or Tweet openly. People lose their jobs from posting offensive or inappropriate remarks online. One man was recently fired from his retail job for posting cruel things on Facebook about Amanda Todd, the bullied teen who committed suicide.

As a potential future teacher, my friend said I would be held to an even higher standard. This meant that I wouldn’t be allowed to use swear words or write about the subjects that titillate and interest me, such as issues in politics or social justice. I would be wise to avoid expressing my personal views, lest they clash with a potential employer’s. A quick Google search of one’s name—depending on what comes up—can make or break your career before it even begins, he said.

So is it true that I could really prevent myself from getting a job through what I’ve written online? I spoke to Hiren Mistry, one of my course directors at York University, to hear what he had to say.

“Any young teacher who chooses to proceed with an active online life needs to think carefully about what is expected of them,” he says. Mistry thinks that potential employees shouldn’t be shunned or punished simply for having an online presence. Not accepting social media, he believes, “isolates and alienates a whole generation that, in many respects, communicates with greater creativity and intensity online than face-to-face.”

Still, it’s best to be careful, warns Mistry. School Boards’ “default position” is for employees to limit their online presences, he says.

Part of the problem is that whatever you post online can be misconstrued or misinterpreted. What is a harmless observation to one person can easily offend another.

As a writer, blogging was a fun way to tell my stories to a larger audience that I wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise, but as a future teacher it presented me with a dilemma. What if, in the future, parents, students, or employers don’t like what I wrote online? Finding a balance between the two continues to be a source of confusion for me. I’m sure many students struggle with this.

For now, I think back to my friend’s advice. “Do you want to be a writer, or do you want to be a teacher?” he said at the time, “because you know that you won’t be able to have both.”

I would like to think he’s wrong, and that employers would see the value in employees having a healthy online presence, but I can also see their concerns, and I am not willing to jeopardize my future career. It’s a choice many students will need to make. I chose to delete my personal blog.

Yuni Kim (@YuniKimchi on Twitter) is an education student at York University. Have you ever been in trouble with an employer for posting online? Tell us your story in the comments section.


Why I shut down my blog

  1. Re your friend’s advice; can’t be a teacher and writer. Bad advice.
    Here’s why.

    To be a good teacher, IMHO, one needs to have a growth mindset. Writing is one way to keep yourself open to growth, new ideas and, dare I say, the odd setback. Not sure, however, if I would qualify online busy work as writing, though.

    I do both, with some measure of success and couldn’t imagine that lifestyle otherwise.

    Good luck with your studies.

  2. While I don’t believe employers should hold employees to an excessively high standard in their non-work lives, I think that anything you put out there is fair game for consideration by them. Consider the reference letter. As a professor, I am often asked to write letters for students looking for jobs or to get into programs. My role is to comment, based on my observations of, and experience with, the student, on how I believe that person will perform in the position sought, and to justify those comments. The reader of that letter is looking for information about the student to help them make a decision. Anything about yourself that you make available to the employer or admissions people, such as what you put online, could, and probably should, become part of that set of information. So, you should consider your online presence as part of a reference letter you are providing for yourself. Should employers interpret tht information in a mature, sensible way? Of course they should. But you should also keep in mind that anything you make available tells something about you. Make sure that it tells the story you want told. To be honest, as an employer, I would value someone who can think independently and express their opinions clearly and effectively, so your blog might be an asset. But if your rants (and seriously, who doesn’t rant from time to time?) give indications of an immature or thoughtless person doing the writing, that tells me something, too.

  3. What if you use a pseudonym?

    • I did think about that. However – and I don’t know if this is a vain thing – I want my own writing to be attributed to me. When people say they like my writing I feel it’s one of the few things I can be proud about without feeling like an ass about it. Not to mention, if someone in the school system found out I was writing under a pseudonym – even if I never posted idiotic drivel – their immediate thought MIGHT go to “What are you trying to hide?” which is a whole different skeleton-in-closet scenario.

  4. I combined a writing career with a teaching career for the 32 years I taught in public schools. In my sideline as a reporter, reviewer and editorial writer, I was visible several hundred times a year. It did not hurt me (probably kept me sane) and gave me a second line to work to transition to when I retired from the classroom. The skill sets are similar and when writing the only person I had to discipline was myself. If course, this was in print, where one is likely to be a bit more restrained and less crude than in many blogs I have seen. People tend to treat blogs as if they were those old five year diaries that had locks on them and were filled with things you’d never want another soul to read. The simple solution is to edit yourself and remember that these things are indeed, open to the world.

  5. I am a teacher who loves to blog and write. It’s also a great resource to recommend to students (“a friend of mine has a site”). I highly recommend writing under a pen name. As long as you can maintain plausible deniability and not have your name connected to a pen name in a Google search you should be just fine right?