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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Yes, I'm the one with 'hobbit' feet, dodgy ears, and the accent 

Over the last few weeks I've kept thinking of things that I really should get round to blogging about, but it's been pretty difficult to sit down at a keyboard and do it lately. Hopefully I'll manage to over the next few weeks.

One of the things I've been thinking about is the issue of anonymity (some earlier thoughts here). It's raised its head in the b-school blogging community from time to time - Would things we blogged come back to 'bite us'? Did adcoms read blogs/'triangulate' them with applications/let them influence decisions? Did anonymity equal honesty while identifiability equaled caution-related blandness?

Unlike some others (bskewl springs to mind) I've always taken a pretty relaxed view on whether I could be identified from my blog. My guiding principle was that I wouldn't share anything that I wasn't happy to have people know about me when they met me, whether in person or in the form of my application. I honestly don't think that this has caused me to self-censor. Have I shared every aspect of my life vis the blog? No I haven't, but then a lot of my life isn't relevant to it. But I've never felt "I shouldn't say that", or "this is something I'd better leave out, just in case". And I'm a big believer in the value of context. I'm female, I'm British, I work for a non-profit. I think all those elements add to my blog and it would be the poorer if I'd attempted to cover them up. I knew from the outset that those three characteristics in combination would put me in a pretty small subset of applicants, although I didn't realise how small a subset they would make me part of once I added WG07 into the mix. So I suppose it's a good job that I'm not too worried about anonymity, because realistically I had zero chance of maintaining any.

As I observed earlier, it is kind of odd being recognised as britchick and having people know things about me when I know nothing about then. It's also been occuring to me that in lots of ways I'm a pretty private person, so despite what I've said about only blogging what I'm happy for people to know, I realise that I've shared much more with a group of heaven-knows-how-many mostly complete strangers in cyberspace than I ever would with casual aquaintances in the real world. On the whole though, I think the good about that outweighs the bad. After all, what does it matter? Plus, I know that I'm not always the most personally forthcoming individual in person. Maybe knowing that some things are already out there in the ether will make a bit more open, or seem less reserved. Similarly, while I'm told that <insert real name here> and britchick are pretty consistent, I know that there are things I like about britchick which don't always come through in <irnh> as much as they could, but which I've noticed becoming a lot more evident while I've been blogging. Maybe I've got to know myself as much as other people have got to know me.

The big issue about identifiability and blogging that's been on my mind relates to blogging as a student. As an applicant, this blog has been about me in isolation - my thoughts, my feelings, my experiences. No one I know in my day-to-day life is aware of its existance, so they're certainly not reading it, and by and large I'm not blogging about other people. But while an applicant's experience is largely solitary, a student's is communal. Come August, what I'm blogging about is going to be the major aspect of my life, and there are going to be other people involved.

There's a school of thought that says that if you are an identifiable student blogger you can't be honest - self or peer-pressure censorship will turn your blog into little more than a bland marketing channel for your school. Whereas, the same train of thought goes, complete anonymity leaves you free to be honest and critical, and this therefore makes you blog more 'valuable'. I don't buy into that logic. Firstly, there are identifiable bloggers who criticise when they feel the need (see the latest post form Future MBA Girl, for one example). Maybe school culture and individual resillience have a big part to play in how possible it is to this, but it certainly doesn't seem to be impossible. Nor do I think it is fair to value a 'wharts and all' approach above all others. Blogs are a very personal endeavour - no one has a right to demand or expect that someone include things that the writer doesnt, for whatever reason, wish to. I think every blog adds to the sum of knowledge for applicants or other interested parties, and argueably what an annonymous blogger feels they can bring to the table in terms of increased candour is offset by what they necessarily lack in terms of context.

So how do I think this is going to affect me as I blog as a student. Well, I don't intend to adopt an uncritical 'Wharton is perfect and everyone should come here' line. That's not my approach to anything. But I'm not necessarily going to rant about every frustration or disappointment in detail either. It's not that I feel obliged to 'defend the brand' or fear that I wil be ostricised by my classmates if I talk out of turn, but I do feel strongly about respecting other people. As I mentioned earlier, school is a communal endevour. While I want to blog about my experiences, thought and feelings, I also recognse that these will be tied up with the experiences thoughts and feelings of other people, and I have to respect that. And I recognise that when you talk about 'a school', unless you are specifically talking about the building, you're really refering to people. So hitting out at 'a school' is hitting out at individuals. Iif there are things that I don't like or people that I have problems with, I'm not going to be opting for a detailed rant on the blog as a first resort. I'll be seeing what I can do about it in the real world, and then maybe reflecting on the experience, or expressing my frustrations about not being able to do anything. If that sounds to bland for you, then sorry but this is my blog nad it's going to be on my terms.

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