Thursday, December 29, 2016

Why Twitter?

Twitter gets lots of criticism, and rightly so, for not handling abuse well and for helping to circulate fake news.  It is easy for me to dismiss the dark side since I get far less abuse than women, LGBT folks, and people of color.  But I have have received some abuse, so why do it?  A key tweeter asked this, in response to his mom's question.

So, I have both silly and serious reasons:

Yes, I get to engage with famous folks like Henry Winkler and Morgan Fairchild.  Which is pretty cool.  Also, heaps of fun and silly pictures, videos, stories and tweets themselves get shared across the planet.  So, as entertainment, twitter is mighty entertaining.

Besides from relentless self-promotion (pretty sure twitter has helped me sell my books), twitter is very important for me professionally:
  • I learn more about more places, people, and events more quickly via twitter than any other way.  I don't like TV news, and newspapers always have limited international coverage.  As a professor of international affairs and one without a real regional focus, following a variety of people gets me links and views about all kinds of places.  Sure, it then becomes hard to consume all of it, but I get more glimpses of more stuff via twitter, and they almost always provide me with pathways to learning more if I so choose, than any other way.  While I was wrong in college to believe that being a prof would mean that I would have endless time to read fun books, the idea of endless learning is still key to my idea of my job and my identity.  Twitter helps with that.
  • I have connected with people in government that have facilitated my research projects.  These people have busted the myths I have bought into, have shared insights that have led to new research directions, and have referred me to interesting people to interview.
  • I have connected with scholars around the world--leading to exchanges of information, insights, contacts, and more.  Indeed, twitter has helped to create a community of scholars in my field (and others) so that we have better support networks, clear ideas of what is going on in our disciplines, and more.
  • I know journalists via twitter and can both ask them questions and provide them with my take on stuff.  Without twitter, I would not have this ability to engage with reporters, columnists, anchors, and editors in Canada, the US and elsewhere. 
  • Fundamentally, twitter has helped to bridge various gaps, but especially the one between academia and policy communities.  Thanks to twitter, and especially twitter fight club, I now have friends, some of whom I have met in real life, in think tanks, corporations, lobbyist groups, non-governmental organizations, and the like in DC, Ottawa and other national capitals.  The recurrent question is whether we academics are relevant?  The answer, in part, for me is twitter--that I get to share my views and the views of other academics, the stuff we have learned through research, reading, publication and the rest, with those in government and near government. 

And, oh yeah, I like to talk a lot.

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