By Laura Harrison |
Needless to say, a lot has been happening in the world in the last month. There are a variety of coping mechanisms: blanket forts, alcohol, blissful ignorance. Many people, as Fraser discussed following Brexit, have chosen to shout into the echo chamber that is social media. This is certainly something I’ve participated in this month, but I’ve also questioned and deleted more tweets recently than the previous two years combined. I’m hesitant to wade into the political quagmire when my emotions (and everyone else’s) are running so high.
The Tweeters of the world often talk about cultivating a Twitter voice (a Twoice?). If my hesitancy about tweeting recently is any indication, I believe my Twitter voice is having an identity crisis. In the hope that others are perhaps sharing my fears, here are my concerns:
As a PhD student who would like to be employed someday, I recognise that Twitter is my professional face. I do try to keep it to PhD-related things, particularly because I’m fairly confident shameless self-promotion is what Twitter is actually for. However, as I’ve said in the past, I am more than a PhD student. I tweet about my holidays and Canadian politics and the Toronto Blue Jays because I care about those things. I’m not really interested in being an academic robot.
Some people are brilliant at incorporating their political views into their Twitter voices. These people also frequently respond to the trolls that come with the territory. As a hopeless people-pleaser, this would completely stress me out. I love following these people, and I will happily give their tweets a like, but I am too much of a coward to handle the hate.
Lots of people I follow are incredibly good at taking interesting bits from their own research and packaging a really interesting ongoing series of tweets into a coherent Twitter voice. I am not one of these people. I normally blame my subject matter – since my thesis is ultimately about Scottish identity, in the present climate all of my research-related tweets come out sounding really political. Since I fear twitter spats (see above), I generally just avoid them. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m also hesitant about revealing research to the endless world of the internet before I have even made sense of it myself.
I, like most people, use Twitter as a procrastination tool. It is great for networking, but it is also great at providing an alternative to facebook/your email/buzzfeed. Do we have an obligation to our followers to post interesting things? There is a reason Shit Academics Say and Research Wahlberg exist. People want funny. For some, witty/punny comments naturally become part of their voice, but what about the less comedically inclined? Should we resort to cat memes?
Ultimately, I only post what I’m willing to stand behind. If I wouldn’t say it to a friend/my supervisor/a potential hiring committee (though I can’t imagine when a cat meme would be necessary there), then I don’t post it. The very act of questioning our Twitter practices is in itself probably useful as, in the words of our departed Prime Minister, ‘too many twits might make a twat.’
Laura Harrison is the Editor-in-Chief of Pubs and Publications. You can follow her ongoing identity crisis on Twitter.