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Aspects to consider and questions about Twitter (opinion)

Aspects to consider and questions about Twitter (opinion)

In 2016, it seems a lifetime ago, I wrote a piece for Inside the Supreme Ed called “The academic benefits of Twitter». I stand for it, even if I just deactivated my Twitter account forever.

Initially, I praised Twitter for its ability to expand the network of colleagues and help write and publish thoughts that could later be obtained for more formal science. I have also succeeded in using Twitter as a learning tool and a way to interact creatively with students about course content. A selection of my tweets even became an aphoristic component of my 2015 book, The end of airports.

What has changed over the years? Many, most of which are well retold by others. Just one great example, Tracy Macmillan Kot brilliantly portrayed about the emergence of Black Twitter and its critical modalities, and about its freedom to go elsewhere.

Even before the news of Ilona Mask’s aggressive efforts to seize the platform, I just felt burdened by the incessant demands of the website.

These demands sometimes sound in your face and sound like an evil response or quarrel between the people you are watching, or worse, a subtitle that you can’t go crazy and ponder all night.

But other times the requirements for Twitter users are more subtle and abstract. It’s a news or featured post that you only see for a second, but that causes something that bores you all day.

Although academic Twitter still offers moments of sincere communication, research sharing, and general collegial support, it has also become a charged and toxic place. It’s very easy to run into an argument, get the appropriate newsletter or hate newsletter for what you wrote on Twitter, or closely follow the results of what you posted and then promoted on Twitter.

Debates that used to take place during conferences, or even about magazine issues that lasted for months or years, now take place in fiery minutes and smoldering hours, sometimes burning all evening. You don’t even need to be directly involved in one of these fights to feel the burn.

So, for researchers who may be reviewing the usefulness of their Twitter accounts, here are some negative aspects to consider and questions to ask yourself.

  • Distraction. Does Twitter distract you from reading, writing, preparing for a course, or engaging with students? If so, pay attention to this. Distraction can be a more cumulative and exponential effect than you even realize.
  • Annoyance. When you open Twitter on your phone or desktop, do you feel annoyed by what you see for a few seconds? Does this annoyance haunt you long after you shut down a program or website? Unnecessary irritation is a serious work on other things that you could do, and get more pleasure from it.
  • Intimidation. Do you feel intimidated by things published by your peers or colleagues? How often do you feel overwhelmed by the fact that you have not achieved enough in your discipline or field, or have not made enough progress in your own research program? Twitter perfectly creates self-deprecating feelings of inadequacy. There always seems more exciting, deep in the continuous flow of these tweets that are constantly unfolding …
  • Anger. We were all at the conference panel, which upset or angered us. But there is nothing better than to cool off or relax in a hotel bar with friends after a particularly nauseating conversation or a busy question and answer session. There is no such forum on Twitter to process – and release – a couporos that can break out in an instant, unsolicited.
  • Jealousy. It’s hard to admit. But it’s so easy to see someone else’s achievements, a book contract, an award or a scholarship announcement and feel a little sad inside – and, in fact, jealous. And it can be, even if you are happy for them at the same time! Twitter has a way to arouse envy. It’s something baked in shape, like chocolate chips melted into dough. (Don’t get me wrong – I love cookies, but not every day and all the time.) And this envy exists for a pernicious reason: one day you may become the one who will evoke such feelings in others.
  • Obligation. It may be elusive and ephemeral, but it’s a vague idea that you have to like someone’s tweet, or do something to retweet, or follow someone … or, more difficult, answer in DM. Then there is the duty to update everyone when something happens: publication, podcast, book review, teaching. All of these layers of mandatory interaction seem fairly easy in theory, but end up adding to the overall burden that Twitter insidiously, albeit silently, heaps on its users.
  • Noise. Speaking of silence, Twitter really isn’t. It’s an extremely cacophonous place, and the hustle and bustle goes beyond the website. The noise rings in your ears long after you’ve left Twitter, and even lures you back. This is our modern siren song.

There are also the problems of depression, anxiety and fear that Twitter feeds and feeds on, but these are other banks of worms.

Maybe I’m just showing off my thin skin – admitting my timidity and weakness before being, in truth, just a digital giant. Perhaps I’m just justifying myself by my inability to keep up with the daily (let alone night) onslaught of smart, meaningful, and necessary tweets. Maybe I’m just revealing how hard it is for me to draw the line between personal and professional life.

Despite this, I think there is something real on Twitter that should be opposed now.

I know that Twitter – along with social media in a broader sense – has played an important role in creating important political movements, and it has provided opportunities for people who need a voice or to strengthen the cause. But I also think it’s fair to say that we’ve crossed the threshold and that the positive aspects of Twitter may be outdated, supplanted by unbridled rhetorical battles and endless present poses. Sometimes it’s an exciting, but mostly just exhausting place. A brazen attempt by Mask to acquire just spurred Twitter for me.

Learning work takes time. Training takes time. Creative projects take time. All this time there is no need to record or co-opt like a monolithic website. Twitter is also time consuming. Twitter literally takes our time.

I realized I could have valued my scientific, pedagogical, and creative time differently if I just didn’t have to think about how it would play on Twitter and then engage in this hyperperformative action. So I haven’t become a Twitter since April 28, and so far it’s been a great relief. I saw things differently from the other side. But this is another essay, another time.

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