By Roseanna Doughty |
It took a fair amount of agonising over finding that perfect photograph, which says ‘I am a serious yet glamourous and fun-loving academic’ but doesn’t make me look like I have a double chin, and a full-blown tutorial by social media-savvy friend, but this January I finally took the plunge. I joined Twitter! This means that if anyone wishes to read all my witticisms and profound ideas, because I assure you I have many, they can now follow me @RoseannaJane.
The reason I joined Twitter was because I wanted an online academic presence, and deleting all those photos with my mouth open from Facebook seemed too arduous a task (it’s a skill – every time the shutter closes I manage to be mid-sentence). It has been extremely useful, bringing calls for papers and new books to my attention, introducing me to interesting people, helping ensure that it is not only my mother reading these blog posts, and allowing me to market myself. Apart from indulging a joint enthusiasm for hats, pheasants and good moustaches with a colleague (Oh the varied and diverse interests of a PhD student!), I have tried to keep my page strictly professional. In an attempt to filter the amount of information I receive, I try not to follow anyone who isn’t directly relevant to my work and only tweet about work related topics. Still, I have probably lost countless hours scrolling through News Feeds that could have been better spent actually doing my research.
There is not much I can say about social media that, having grown up in the technological age, most of us don’t already know. I could use this blog to talk about the wormhole it creates that absorbs research hours, or the dangers of alcohol-induced tweeting, but it has all been said before and in 140 characters no less! I would, however, like to point out that while social media has, to a certain extent, revolutionised the way we do academia, it can be incredibly restrictive. An awareness that things you post online will be there forever and is accessible to anyone, has greatly affected the way I write online. Even a quick e-mail can take me over twenty minutes to compose as I satisfy myself that it can’t be misconstrued, and that I have come across as well-informed and appropriately reverential.
The same can be said for this blog. Whilst Pubs and Publications has allowed me to air my concerns and try out new ideas, I am still painfully aware that everything I write has the potential to come back and haunt me. Each blog post, especially if it relates to my research, involves an emotional roller-coaster as I question the implications of every sentence and worry about how I present myself and my ideas. As a result I have certainly held back from broaching certain topics or from engaging with debates until I have fully developed my opinions. As such, social media’s usefulness as a forum to test out new ideas (if I ever have any!), often put forward as one of its chief selling points, becomes somewhat obsolete. It also means I waste even more time unnecessarily distressed over the wording of a tweet; although it does force me to think more about how I write which can’t be all bad.
Social media is without a doubt advantageous, but as good academics we should be considering how the Twitter age impacts on our research. Whilst the struggle to balance asking questions and voicing thoughts, with the risk of sounding silly or being confronted later with opinions you no longer hold is not unique to social media, I wonder whether the permanency of Twitter, and its’ contemporaries, have changed the way we interact with academia.
Roseanna Doughty is one of Pubs and Publications contributions editors and a first year PhD student researching media representations of the Irish during the IRA England Campaign, 1969-1997. You can find out more information about her through various social media outlets including Twitter, where her handle is @RoseannaJane, or her academia.edu page.