There are plenty of people in my “real life,” that don’t get why I blog. I’m a graduate student in a decent school and blogging has a (sometimes deservedly) bad wrap as being small league, unacademic and homespun. The more I blog, the more I find that just because you use the internet doesn’t mean you get it. I blog because it allows me to be in touch with an emerging market of internet business that is revolutionizing the way we sell, buy and make money, yet many academics, especially the younguns who use these technologies but rely on their “education” to build a career, simply don’t see it.
I originally decided to go to grad school because I loved sociology and the potential it held for understanding social problems, applying a personal and scientific methodology and interacting with those being studied to solve social problems. That, my friends, was my nieve little dream- and it didn’t come true. After about 4 weeks in the graduate program, after hearing cyncial professors joke about how we’d graduate to no jobs, loads of debt and disturbingly low prospects on ever landing the very tenure track positions they were using to tell us such things, (but hey, would still take my money) I was shocked and deflated.
I had busted my butt, spent hundreds of dollars, applied to 13 schools and took the worst standardized test ever created, and I sat in a bar with a friend in downtown Chicago and literally cried in my beer. I had made an epic mistake, and it was costing me a lot of money to do so.
In fact, that epic mistake costs me about $8k a semester. I write papers that nobody reads, about social issues that the country is divided over, and hand them in (poorly edited) to professors who have openly admitted to me that they don’t get to read it throughly (and my good grades reflect this).
That chilly November evening was the start of a new thought process for me. As I played with my coaster and chewed my bottom lip, my friend took pity on me (you know, after having a good laugh at my naivety) and we began to talk. He was working for an online company at the time- and that kind of thing fascinated me, something he had to point out since I obviously didn’t want to admit his job was more exciting than my future career.
At the time, I had read blogs- I loved blogs, I had bookmarked them, shared them on Facebook, and made a few friends online, but I had no idea how it worked. I also had no idea that entire careers were made around blogging, long established old-timey companies were now engaging in it, and indeed, there was something to be gained from becoming a blogger.
At the time, I like most people, knew that blogs were around but had no idea how they operated, how profitable they were, and I undoubtedly underestimated their power. I didn’t understand that people were making money from home either writing, manufacturing or tinkering with blogs. I had no idea that the internet was revolutionizing the way we do business and entrepreneurs make money- I knew it was happening, but I was ignorant to its magnitude and scope.
I was terrified but excited. The internet was changing the game, and reclaiming hope for the academically disenfranchized like myself. I would remain in grad school, but the rules had been changed- the frame had been broken. I didn’t have to wait around and play the game like other grad students did in order to be allowed to teach. I didn’t have to pour hours into my writing only to have it languish in obscurity. If I wanted to publish, I didn’t have to wait around or play into stupid academic politics to get published in a journal, all I had to do was hit publish. The power to tell me if my writing was good, or it sucked, or it needed work, or it meant something was no longer in the hands of few- but it was put out there for potentially, millions of people so different from myself. My anger was turned into power, my frustration into movement.
Some days, I still grapple with my decision to stay in the program and finish my last semester or two. The cost is high, the time is that I will never get back and sometimes the classroom is the loneliest place in the world for me since I lack the passion for program that so many of my esteemed peers have found. I still love sociology, it has taught me about a myriad of social problems, but perhaps I have learned more about social problems by being in the program and seeing how the academic world isn’t functioning to actively solve them- and sadly, I think schooling is now creating some problems.
Sociology taught me about social problems. Graduate school caused me to live social problems -especially those associated with our generation. Suddenly, I was meeting students with 20-100k in student loan debt, living on food stamps and anxiously hoping someone would give them a break. It made it abundantly clear that our generation is going to graduate to epidemic debt, and has done little to prepare alumni to tackle the cost of their careers. It has also taught me that education is based on an outdated framework. In my few short months of blogging, I am seeing how the world is changing because I am no longer simply a consumer of these changes, I’m watching them happen and as a sociologist in practice, I am predicting how these social changes are going to completely change each aspect of our personal and professional lives.
Sadly, I see so many students applying emerging technologies to make their academic work simpler and easier, but fail to realize that these technologies are making the work easier, but it will not make the outdated pedagogies of the university system relevant.
Students use Skype for study groups, sidestep the over priced campus bookstore through Amazon, give brutally honest reviews on RateMyProfessor.com, and learn languages via podcast. While these technologies are making college better, they are also wiping out the very careers and employment mindsets of the previous generation- yet we, as a group, seem to be oblivious to these changes and cling on to the hope that our piece of paper we sacrificed so much for will be enough to save us in the digital age.
So, this is why I blog. I love to learn, I love to engage, I love to do so for free and even make money as I learn. Waiting for a teacher to package learning for me, and even paying to do so isn’t sustainable or even attractive anymore. The jobs in academics are evaporating as we speak, so let’s get engaged. As a generation, we are witnessing the changes taking place, the markets are shifting and it’s nothing to be scared about – turn on your technology, turn on your mind and thrive in the rising tide of the digital wave.