Over the past few years, the debate over whether social media helps or hurts our culture has changed. Most people aren’t so worried about connectivity anymore; now, we debate over how best to use it. By now we’ve also learned that the answer changes depending on who’s posing the question, as when Dave Beer asks “Can academics manage without Twitter?”
In trying to answer this question I’ve been searching around and looking at the content of academic Twitter profiles (including journals, departments and societies as well as individuals). I’ve also been chatting with colleagues. What I’m finding is that Twitter seems to have rapidly become the place to find out about what is going on in the academic world. It would seem that there is something about Twitter, more than any other social media, that seems to suit academics. The result seems to be that academic life is being remediated a on a large scale. Not only is information about opportunities (including job, publishing and speaking opportunities) passing around freely, but Twitter seems to be making aspects of academic practice more visible.
So can academics manage without Twitter? “Yes, of course,” says Carole McGranahan at the University of Colorado, but perhaps the question really is why would you want to? Why look at it as though it’s a chore? McGranahan shared five benefits Twitter offers academics. Of course, I’m pulling this from a list she posted on her Twitter account:
- You can use it to learn about new research, publications, conferences, and conversations in your field.
- You can build community, following and connecting with colleagues around the world who work in your field.
- You have the choice between “dropping in” or “hanging out all day”–the Favorite function lets you follow up on an interesting find when you have time later.
- As McGranahan says herself, “I think of my Twitter feed as personally-curated updates of news, info, [and] stories on topics I care about.”
- You learn about things well before they hit your email or even Facebook newsfeed.