How Twitter Changed My Life

I have a confession to make.  I hated twitter. I joined for the first time in 2010 (although I thought it was earlier than that) and for a while, I gave it the good old college (pun intended) try to interact  and make connections. I was also working on self-publishing this little teen novel I wrote but I couldn’t stomach the, “look at me! look at me!” required for self-promotion. The vast majority of people I followed (and who follow me) on the account that bears my real name, were people I was already friends with on Facebook, primarily my cycling peeps, or I followed professional cyclists none of whom followed me back and most of whom didn’t say anything very interesting.  We should not hold it against me that the first person I followed on Twitter was Lance Armstrong — who, by the way, people still voraciously bully or defend with verisimilitude.

My problem with Twitter was its narcissistic and attention seeking ways.  I preferred the safety of Facebook where at least I had a good idea of who my audience was.  I often said, “I don’t get Twitter,” because I didn’t see the point of interacting with strangers.  Being often verbose and in love with my own words, I also didn’t see the point of limiting myself to 140 characters either.

My introduction to Academic Twitter came innocuously one day winter of 2016 when a Facebook friend shared a post by a page called, Shit Academics Say. I scrolled through posts and it was like looking at my own life.  It warmed my geeky soul. SAS introduced me to other academic tweeters through posts of media articles about them. SAS’s curator, I discovered when he posted his CV one day, turned out to be someone from my hometown, who like me, carries three degrees from the same local institution but ultimately hit it big at one of the top universities in Canada, tenured and everything. I confess. I am a bit of a fan-girl.

(There you go. He is academic twitter famous enough. Now many of you can figure out where I live, where I go to school, and then likely, given I don’t work at the institution where I go to school, where I work can be teased out as well).

I had already applied to the PhD program (will be the 4th degree from same university for me) and had been having some interesting scenarios emerge at work related to student writing, grading, and academic assignment creation. I had a few things I needed to say, and wanted to share with like-minded folk, in perhaps a less politically correct way than my employer (and perhaps my institution of study, and my advisor who I respect beyond measure) would prefer. I have a rather bitter, sarcastic sense of humour. But I love to write.  So I started this blog in the middle of the summer. But the blog needed a place to be shared and it wasn’t going to be on my Facebook page or on the Twitter account that had my real name attached to it.

So I created the @AcademicsWrite account — not my first choice of name but it was what was available. I followed the academics I had started following on my personal account and then just watched the feed for other ideas and did some searches of hashtags and other key words, nothing different than others do. And between those tricks and being brave enough to occasionally interact, I managed to get a few followers. Now, as of today I have 140 followers (in 2 months on twitter, while using zero of my in person contacts to get started), only 2 of which are people I know IRL: my significant other, and one colleague — who I am not sure if she realizes it is me or not — but I think, at the very least, she suspects it is me. She was one of my first five followers, and I assume that happened through some logarithmic glitch that connected my two accounts, she found out about it by email, the same way my significant other got alerted I had created this account. Weird.

I had to post stuff too — beyond these occasional blog posts. I am better with comebacks than I am with being spontaneously funny. I am rather abstractly observant about absurdity. I like smart people. Especially smart funny people. I’m trying to be a-political but I enjoy watching the political discussion going on right now. I love media articles and how they influence the world.  I should have been a psychologist or a sociologist, but nursing is actually a pretty good back door into both worlds. I wanted this twitter account to be about more than just academic writing. Academic writing just happens to be what I teach and what I research, but it isn’t who I am. There was no way I would be able to connect to this community without injecting a little bit of my real self into the mix. I am female, but that isn’t why I am anonymous (although it may be helpful to be female and anonymous on Twitter).

I won’t be anonymous forever.  It may be a while before I display my name (although I have already said, once or twice, if you ask under appropriate circumstances and we’ve been communicating a bit, I’ll tell you who I am) but I have this publication coming out in spring 2017 and that will likely be my coming out party. I’m no one famous. It will probably, for the most part, be a “who cares” moment. There will be no, gasps of disbelief. I’m just your regular run-of-the-mill college instructor who is a very small fish in this pool of academics.

The hashtag #howtwitterchangedmylife prompted me to write this shortish blog. If you asked me 6 months ago if Twitter would ever have a place in my life, I would have made some snide remark. What I tweeted about Twitter changing my life was:

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-9-01-12-am

And it is true. I have doctoral seminars to attend once a month and the topics are things intended to introduce us to the grand world of The Academy: Recruitment and retention of faculty, jobs outside academia, publication issues, mental health of academics — things I see discussed every single day on Twitter.

My goal was to write a blog a week. I’m going to continue to attempt to do that but I’m finding myself very busy with PhD coursework. I’m just as obsessive about writing a post like this as I am about writing an academic paper so these blogs take time and my time is limited right now.  I feel like I am reading 300 pages a week. Today I am going to sit down and begin to plan out the writing of my first PhD assignment, which excites and terrifies me, it is only 12 pages. I can write 1100 words about nothing (as this particular blog post demonstrates) so 3000 words about something is not long enough.

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2 thoughts on “How Twitter Changed My Life

  1. I also couldn’t see the point when I first started using twitter – it took me about 6 months between getting the account & the 2nd tweet. However, unlike you, I’d not decided to keep it secret – I was using it for work purposes. I wonder, though, if in 2007 it was less full of narcissism – and being both a Geek and an educator, I was researching educational technology anyway – so it served several purposes for me.

    Good luck with the PhD, by the way!

    Like

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