12 October, 2006

Write On, Baby!

I read in this month’s Psychologist (what, you mean you don’t read it?) about a psychologist who was accused by the British Psychological Society of having ‘a romantic relationship’ (as they put it) with one of his patients. He denied it but, many months later, the patient wrote in her blog about her involvement with this psychologist and, some time after that, he too wrote, in the same blog, about how the relationship had helped him. The blog entries were used as evidence against him at his hearing and he was dismissed from the Society.

Apart from these curious insights into the steamy world of British psychology, what I take away from this tale is that blogging can clearly be a dangerous pastime. Of course I knew this already. I have been reading for the past year or two, various stories of people being unable to get jobs because prospective employers are checking out their blogs as well as their references – and not always liking what they see. There are also tales of people being disciplined or sacked because of what they reveal about themselves or their employers in blogs. If I read more widely, I suppose I’d also have seen various divorce cases and such also related to blogged revelations.

Mind you, writing has always been dangerous. Ask Galileo. Ask Solzhenitsyn. Ask Salman Rushdie. The thing is, though, it used to be dangerous because brave or naïve people would write true and honest things, things that needed to be said, but that a repressive State or some religious loonies would find objectionable. These days, while that still goes on, there is the added danger that employers will also choose to exercise their ability to oppress people whose views they don’t like.

Of course, if you don’t want to run the risk of being victimized by some petty capitalist or corporate lackey, you don’t have to write a blog. You can keep your thoughts and opinions to yourself. On the other hand, how much power are you willing to put into the hands of such people? Surely the deal you make with an employer is they get your body and mind for a period of time and you get a few dollars in return. There’s nothing in the bargain about them controlling what you think or do in the time they haven’t bought.

Or there shouldn’t be. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. The power relationship between employer and employee is so uneven that the poor old worker can be bullied and pressured into giving away far more than he or she is paid for. So be careful what you write in that blog.

Or be self-employed, like me.

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