On serious academics

The #seriousacademic storm on social media raised some interesting questions about professional and personal practices academics engage in online. We too have seriously thought about this. (Admittedly, after seeing it on Twitter).

In case you have spent last week at a wifi-less (free?) writing retreat or on a screen-free holiday (even better!), Guardian’s Academic Anonymous recently featured a text by a PhD student who criticised some social media practices common among academics. Many academics, perhaps feeling called out, responded rapidly (on social media, where else), offering various counterarguments (some interesting texts can be found on here:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Following the wide-ranging discussion unfolding in my newsfeed, I have found myself nodding and “uhmmm-ing”, but shaking my head too, from time to time.

Many YESes…

Key messages of the responses resonated with mine relatively short experience of academia. I thought, yes, yes to public engagement and science communication. Social media have great potential for bringing the results of endless hours in the lab, library or out in the field, to the wider public, policy makers or other parties that might benefit from it (I ‘ll refrain from mentioning the i-word…). Scholarly journals and edited volumes are great, but reach relatively small audience.

Yes to accessibility, networking, and collaboration. Connecting with colleagues across continents or disciplines has never been easier. Within a minute or two it is possible to reach out to prominent names in the field or ask for support from the team who developed the software or equipment you are using. Finding resources, calls for papers and job advertisements – check, check, check. (Eavesdropping on conferences you had to miss – Also check!)

Image credits: geralt/CC0

Yes to peer-support and academic solidarity. Even more importantly, social media offer a platform to develop communities and offer support in challenging parts of the academic path, as well as celebrating progress, whether it is a completed interview transcription or winning a several-billion-worth research grant.

Yes to being yourself. Finally, the multitude of diverse voices in academic discourse promotes a democratic and inclusive idea of science. Tweed jacket, tattoos or crocs, baking, sky-diving or poetry writing, it doesn’t matter what you like wearing or doing for fun; showing who you are AND what you do are both valid agenda.

 And some NOs

The latter point, however, gave me food for thought. While being judgmental towards Instagrammer academics promotes a very limited understanding of what it means to be an academic, doesn’t presenting social media involvement as the only valid way of doing science exert a similar effect? Lively discussion of different practices can be motivating and insightful, but ostracising those less apt or willing to adopt them (and that ensued, as well as reasoned arguing), does not make our own practices more justified or successful.

Our overall work and results do that, whether facilitated by social media engagement or elsewhere.Being taken seriously is something that is earned, perhaps on different fronts, but never without effort and commitment. Seriously.

What are your thoughts on #seriousacademic article and the responses to it? Let us know in the comments section. 🙂

Ana Kedveš  (@anakedves)

2 thoughts on “On serious academics

  1. Hi Ana, I agree with most of your points. However, I remember the first time I saw the ‘Stylish Academic’ Instagram account, I thought something was seriously wrong with the academic world. No I just think it is simply very different to what it used to be when I first entered University. So I understand how weird all this social media buzz (especially the very superficial stuff which you usually find on instagram) can be for senior academics.

  2. Hi,

    I can imagine how you’ve felt… I remember sitting in my supervisor’s offic after my first ‘big’ UK conference, complaining about a colleague in my talk who tweeted about the issues with my work, rather than raising these in the Q&A or afterwards in person….
    I find it interesting that this came from a PhD student, who are all exposed to these practices early on. Another comment also reminded me of your research on impact studies – one of the response pieces said sarcastically – will my employers care only about likes and shares…. 🙂

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