(This post was modified from a post on my personal blog at jensiesimkins.com)

Hey, do you Tweet? I didn’t really, thinking that FB was the end all and be all of social networking (remember MySpace?). I would hear about Twitter faux pas and the latest Tweet updates from celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Lindsay Lohan, and, of course, Kanye West. Why would I want jump in the digital (cess)pool with them? I’ll probably catch something.

However, this semester, Twitter, or micro-blogging, was a course assignment (along with long-form blogging, voilá). Twitter for class? I thought all that pidgin txtspk was something as academics we were supposed to be shunning and running away from? Ha. My years away from the humanities are showing, but that is a different post altogether.

My growing interest in mommyblogs and digital rhetoric in general has only benefitted from the communities I have found on Twitter. Not only can I show pictures of the latest trouble my son is getting into, but I am “following” several individuals in the DH (digital humanities)… many people I have never met and probably never will meet. But they’re on Twitter for the same reasons I am: sharing links, asking for opinions, and making connections all over the country. This has brought be into contact with individuals who have research that overlaps mine, who are enrolled in a PhD program I am interested in, and even potential employers.

As for using Twitter for class, I love it. I wish my classmates from my other courses were on Twitter, particularly my online class. This online interaction provides us with numerous advantages: a sense of community that extends beyond our time in the classroom where we can ask questions, get advice, and interact with each other and the material in a different way. Plus, we NEVER have to use Blackboard! In a similar vein, my thesis advisor is an avid tweeter. This makes things so easy — we can set up meetings, I can let him know I’ve got edits ready for him to look at on a Google Doc, or I can just bounce ideas off him either in real-time or over the course of a few hours or days. I don’t teach courses, but if I did, my students would be using Twitter. It would be a great way for them to ask me little questions, get to know each other, and even get some practice with low-stakes writing that has to be direct and to the point — only 140 characters.

Of course, I’m now a Twitter junkie. But I’m better for it. I’ve heard about calls for papers, upcoming conferences (complete with encouragement to apply), and I feel comfortable using Twitter in a way that could potentially benefit a future employer (and me in getting that job). If you’re not on Twitter yet, I would highly recommend it. You can follow me @derbybeaver.

Quick Note from GradHacker

We here at GradHacker love twitter! Check out these ProfHacker articles about the benefits of using Twitter and some ways to integrate it into your life.

Twitter at Conferences, Twitter versus Facebook, and Practical Guide to Twitter in the Classroom

[Image by Flickr user Mykl Roventine and used under Creative Commons License]

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11 Responses to Twitter Literate; A Personal Narrative

  1. Alex Galarza says:

    I had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, onto twitter. I was told that I was
    “inhibiting my professional development” by not tweeting, and this has turned out to be largely true. My entry into the world of DH was facilitated by tweeting and I found out about THATCamp through it. I have found many opportunities and contacts on twitter, though I rarely use it for any socializing.

    • jensie.simkins says:

      I think often people hesitate with Twitter because they think it will be like Facebook — and if they like FB, they why do they need Twitter, and if they hate FB, then they REALLY don’t want Twitter.

      However, Twitter (thankfully) is NOT like FB. It is really an amazing networking tool for academia and the job search.

  2. Katy Meyers says:

    I only began using Twitter as a way to interact with advisors when I started my PhD a year ago. I was extremely hesitant even though I had heard a lot of success stories. Now, I love twitter. Its a great way to contact people quickly, I can get fast community sourced answers to questions, and I get the chance to interact with professionals and faculty on a more casual level. I’ve used twitter to set up meetings with people I want to meet, its my way of advertising my blog, and its even gotten me the opportunity to test out a beta program for bioarchaeology. Twitter is microblogging and networking combined. Its also the greatest tool for conferences.

    I love twitter!

  3. Aden Nichols says:

    DH has a sort of love-hate relationship with Twitter. Yes, it is a useful tool for DHers–for the time being… It has its limitations, and has only become the defacto backchannel commo platform by virtue of seniority–it was “home.” Something better will surface soon enough. In the meantime, I concede that I have really benefitted from the ability to engage with the DH community through this medium, and I haven’t really begun to mine it as thoroughly as I should–heck, I have trouble just keeping up with the constant flow of amazing ideas and links I follow on my tweetdeck! Oh, and you can tweet me at @theneocelt.

  4. Stephanie Hilliard says:

    I am glad to get the feedback on how Twitter can be useful. Like many people, I’ve avoided it like the plague because of its reputation as a waste of valuable time. I am glad to hear that it also can be a valuable tool if it is properly used (a case I frequently make for Facebook!). I will consider taking the plunge…

    • Trent M Kays says:

      Who decides what is proper and what is not? The whole point of social networking is for one to be social. It doesn’t work unless the user is social. More importantly, social networking is properly engaged with insofar as what the user considers proper. Just because you may not think it’s proper doesn’t mean it isn’t so to someone else. If you find someone’s use improper, there is nothing stopping you from not engaging with him or her through social networking.

  5. Ashley says:

    I can’t even remember why I joined Twitter, but it’s been lovely to connect with other grad students – those who study similar topics and those who study completely unrelated topics, too. I’ve been following the #phdchat hashtag, and it’s been a wealth of information about the dissertation process. I’ve been a little quiet lately (nose to the grindstone), but I’m @aspatriarca.

  6. Trent M Kays says:

    Some good points about Twitter, Jensie. Whenever I have people who are averse to using Twitter for whatever reason, I usually refer them to a short piece written by Howard Rheingold: “Twitter Literacy (I refuse to make up a Twittery name for it.” It’s a great piece about Twitter, though I still have trouble understanding how some just don’t get what Twitter is. It’s not that hard.

    Rheingold’s piece can be found here: http://goo.gl/XfFz7.

  7. Fayana Richards says:

    I see Twitter as a way to communicate on a professional level. I am an extremely random person and am afraid of scaring followers, so I try to keep that at a minimum.

  8. Denae says:

    I would drop FB over Twitter any day. Love it! Just started following you too. Thanks for the article.

  9. [...] at Gradhacker, we’ve written about online identity and the use of Twitter before. In this post, I thought I’d tackle less of the “how to use Twitter” and move [...]

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