Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Boomer Blogger

It has not escaped my attention that for most people my age, blogging is seen as a rather absurd activity practiced by self-absorbed young people who feel the need to tell the world about their feelings. I see no reason why middle-aged self-absorbed people shouldn't also use this medium to tell the world about their feelings as well, but I have been in numerous social and professional settings in which someone (typically my age or older) says to another "Do you have a blog?" or "Why don't you blog about that?" and everyone laughs at the joke.

The exceptions to the blogs-are-silly opinion held by many of my middle middle aged peers are the political blogs, which many people I know followed obsessively during the presidential election.

According to data I found online, ~ 15% of US adults in my age group have blogs. That's not an insignificant number.

In the blogger population, I am in the minority in age, gender, marital status, and income. I am in the majority in ethnicity and possibly in education. I read that bloggers are "better educated" than the average US adult, but it's not actually by very much (14.3 years compared to 14.2 years). Even so, you could say that I am in the majority by having > 14.2 years of education.

In the community of academic bloggers, my sense is that many are women, so in that context I am not unusual, though it does seem that I am older than most, at least among the blogging scientists.

Somehow I get the feeling that most of my middle aged colleagues are not going to get the urge to blog anytime soon and will not easily change their minds, but I would like to be wrong. In fact, I like to think that the people making the blog-jokes now will one day be inspired to start a cat blog, or a science blog, or a poetry blog, or a zombie film blog. They could even be anonymous..


Anonymous said...

Well, in the UK there is an emerging trend (very emerging I might add) to counting electronic online works as part of a research output. By counting, I mean that Universities (and by extension the committees that judge academic research every 5 or so years, next to be embodied by the REF) are starting to take notice, request these outputs to be archived, and presumably if they are a substantial enough contribution, will give the kudos points required. Some of my colleagues are excited by this, and that they may get recognition for their scholarship online, others are currently completely oblivious. But if it's something you can 'score points' with, then I expect we'll see a lot more of it coming to an internet near you.

Anonymous said...

Keep it up, I appreciate your insider insights into the upper echelons of academia since, as you say, older academics don't blog, and I don't know of anywhere else to get them.

Anonymous said...

1 it's interesting how if something is related to "politics" (i put it in quote marks because the world is usually short-hand for the circus of party politics, rather than real discussion of, and then action on, real-world issues) it's accorded a status

2 if people feel they have nothing to say, i guess it's a good thing they don't blog!

on the other hand, i think plenty of people could benefit from a "venting" blog - getting all those niggling pet peeves we bother other people with, out via a blog instead.

i can imagine some very funny reads coming from a blog like that.

Anonymous said...

Interesting - Dean Dad over at suburbdad.blogspot.com posted once that blogging was a very baby boomer thing to do - the young student crowd was more facebook/myspace/bebo inclined.

Anonymous said...

Dear FSP, would you mind giving us the source of the data? 15% actually seems too much to believe. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

My impression has been that many folks over 35 or so look down on blogging and other forms of social media largely because they don't understand it. In particular, they may have seen some rather inane uses of blogs, and therefore dismiss the entire medium. But obviously, it is what you do with a blog -- the focus and content -- that matters. A lot of inane things also get written in newspapers and books, but this doesn't cause most people to look down on these media _in_general_ as a legitimate and serious vehicle for communication. Similarly, facebook can be used to nationalistically dump all your trivial thoughts, but it can also be used in very sensible ways, like to keep track of friend's contact information and keep in touch with geographically scattered social networks.

Anonymous said...

I've been blogging for years and am even less representative of my demographic than you are. The hard thing is relating to people my own age who don't get blogging. The easy thing is finding like-minded souls online to develop a friendship with.

Anfa said...

A T shirt I saw stated "Your mother blogs about you!"
I use my semi-anonymous blog to essay about my middle-aged dilemmas & ponder my world. I don't care who follows it and I don't count visits.
It's just a way or journalling. That said, I follow a number of interesting and diverse blogs (FSP is linked on my homepage).
Blog surfing is a nice way to expand a mind when it's tired from doing too much, and to feel productive when one cannot physically do a lot.
Most people I know y age neither blog nor indulge in reading blogs. More and more of them are joining Facebook-this I know because they keep connecting with me there.

John Vidale said...

Blogging is fun, although it would be too much work for me to blog in a friendly, generally accessible way as FSP has mastered, probably I couldn't do it.

I view my blogging as an electronically-assisted diary. Mine was intended to be private, but eventually it became clear very few are interested in any blog without a very good writing style and a sense of humor, as is mine. There are many more worthwhile biographies available than routine blogs for readers seeking dynamics life stories.

I think it is a mistake for most to consider their blogs as more than a memoir and a site for conversation.

Doctor Pion said...

Another middle-aged blogger here.

I've found it to be an excellent way to learn across the usual institutional and (more importantly, in my experience) disciplinary boundaries in academia. It has led me to talk to people on my own campus that I would normally never meet, let alone talk shop with.

Also a good way to vent when I don't choose to share some nonsense with my colleagues.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty new to science career blogs or personal blogs written by scientists. I'm almost 10 years past the PhD and I've been a blogger on the topics of my hobbies and other interests but it just never occurred to me that science/research/academia would be a topic for blogging! A few months ago I discovered some blogs written by scientists including this one and I think it would have been helpful to me when I was a student and postdoc to have had this resource and wider community.

Is it just me, or are the vast majority of science-career type blogs written by people in biomedical or life sciences??? I think besides FSP's blog I have only found one or two other blogs written by physicists (which is what I am), it seems that the majority of academic-science bloggers are in biomed. is this a coincidence? Are there more biomed/life sciences scientists in the world than there are physical scientists? Or do physical scientists as a group tend to not be as interested in blogging about academia and career issues? Or am I just unaware of more blogs written by physicists and others in the 'hard' sciences? I only "care" when it comes to the topic of discussing grant funding, which is a big topic. Practically every blog I've seen except this one, focuses entirely on NIH funding and trends that is where I can't relate.

Pagan Topologist said...

I will be sixty five next month, and I do have a blog. I do not post very often, though. When I do, I do not think there is any common thread that would give my blog a particular character. It is pretty wide ranging, as befits a blogger with ADHD.

Ms.PhD said...

15%???!!! That's HUGE. and can't possibly be right. I would like to see a reference, please.

Female Science Professor said...

I Googled 'age distribution bloggers' and found a website with some data. That's all I know.. I certainly can't vouch for the data.

Kevin said...

I'm in my 50s and have been contemplating writing a blog for all the musings that I get when commuting to work. It isn't likely to happen, though, as I'm a slow writer, and I'm already about 5-6 years behind on writing up my research results. Lately all my writing time seems to be sucked up by the never-ending grind of writing grant proposals (I've been without funding for a year now, and will have to shut down the lab).

Anonymous said...

I have just come across your blog and was instantly drawn to it on two accounts. One - boomer blogging. Here in the UK we have a blog relating to older workers at http://inmyprime.wordpress.com/
Before we started it we wouldn't have thought it was a great thing to do but we get a lot of visitors so it's obviously a popular medium. I'd encourage all boomers to have a go - I do think it's a medium that naturally appeals more to many older people than, say, Facebook, etc.

Second I'm researching for a PhD (in older workers' motivation) and I'm finding it hard getting my head around academia after a lifetime of work in the real world.
So I loved your latest post: Everyone knows that already.

My particular bete noir seems to be the frustration caused by knowing that everyone knows something already in the real world but without an academic citation it's like it doesn't exist.

I look forward to revisiting your blog.