You know, I almost feel sorry for “Ivan Tribble,” a pseudonym of a columnist at the “Chronicle of Higher Education.” He wrote two rather scathing critiques of blogging, insinuating that one who desires a job in the Ivory Tower shouldn’t blog, but then backpedals, saying that they should be careful about supplying the URL to one’s website or blog when applying for a job. The backlash was extreme, even though he does have a good point or two in the second essay. Not that he doesn’t have it coming, since blogging is one of the hottest topics in digital literature and in most fields, but he’s been flogged enough.
But in the second essay, he does have a point. It’s far too easy to get information about a person via google. As my computer security boyfriend reminds me, nothing on the internet is secure, and information is notoriously hard to secure. The only privacy we have is that which we create.
Out of curiosity, I plugged my real name into google. My dopplegangers are into various sports, a real estate agent, and a beer executive. And it turned up a bunch of seemingly-benign information about my person. It turned up some posts I made to a programming language mailing list, a few concert listings, and a schedule of liturgical ministries I’m involved with in my parish.
According to Prof. Tribble, I should be concerned about the last one, since it does give identifying information about my personal life, and is, therefore, suspect. Any employer would find out that I’m a practicing Catholic, Eucharistic minister, and altar server. We aren’t far removed from the days of “Catholics need not apply,” and while I’ve never encountered anything but respect from my professors, I’ve heard a lot of anti-Catholic BS from fellow students. In the days where evangelical Christianity–which isn’t overly friendly to Catholicism–is dominant and Catholicism is seen as nothing more than rabid anti-abortion platforms, it isn’t an easy thing to be a practicing Catholic and academic. My politics are assumed for me, if one should happen to glance the medal of Our Lady of Guadalupe I normally wear.
But the larger question is one of distance: where is the line between public and private? Is there even such a line anymore? How far should one have to bury one’s private life to get a job? What about to hold it? Should an employer have the right to delve into one’s personal lives?