Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Grad Students and Social Media

A conversation earlier today got me thinking. It's original topic was something else but a tangent was about academics on social media, how and when they felt the need to censor, and in one case what appeared to be an appalled reaction to grad students on social media.
Which I will admit I had a knee jerk reaction to. I've written a couple of posts on why I think it's important for grad students to be on social media (End of Year Review: Epiphany by Happenstance and How Twitter Affected My Academic Life (part 2)).

I think for grad students, particularly PhD students cultivating an online presence is important.
  • It allows you to craft how you want to be presented and perceived.
  • It teaches you how to market your work and yourself.
  • It allows you to share your work, from inspiration, to conference paper and presentation, to publication with scholars that you might not have a chance to know outside of social media.
  • It widens your network of peers and colleagues.
Personally, I've been asked to participate at conferences, chair panels, finish a book chapter for someone who dropped out, write a book chapter, and submit an article, all because of my presence on social media.

I post what I'm working on. My dissertation has a hashtag (#DevilDiss). I post conference presentations. And drafts. And random thoughts about folklore, fairy tales, medieval and early modern literature and popular culture. I link to this blog, and other online essays I write. As a grad student I also think it's important to share that experience, the good and the bad.

I am present online in every sense of the word.

So when I read things like "grad students on social media make me cringe," or "they shouldn't be on it at all pre-tenure," I practically go into convulsions. It seems an antiquated, and biased thought, the equivalent of saying
as though younger scholars either have nothing to add to the conversation OR should know their place and keep their mouths shut. The same seems to apply in these people's arguments to adjunct or contingent labor And I just can't support that.

While I keep Twitter mostly professional, there is the occasionally tweet and picture of my dog, or my craving for caramel salted ice cream. Because I'm a human, and not a bot. But I do not censor or hide the fact that I'm a feminist. Or a Marxist. Or am deeply committed to the grad school apocalyptic situation and labor practices.

I overheard a conversation earlier this semester that someone had said to a professor that they were "the wrong kind of activist." And I suppose part of the reason that struck me is because I can see myself being classified that way. I speak my mind, I ask hard questions, and I don't let things go if I think they are important.
I've been known to use this as a tagline in standing up for issues and people and against others:
And I don't see any reason why I shouldn't.

I've had a job where I had to keep my mouth shut for fear of losing my job due to opinions and I won't do that again. No job is worth me not being able to be me.

I certainly agree that if you're interacting on a professional level with people (particularly people you don't know WELL) then you should act as a professional. But that's just common sense, that's not advice limited to a social media presence.
I had one person for years I used as an object lesson to my students of how NOT to be on social media because practically every picture of them showed a drink in their hand, and they posted more than once about not going to work because they didn't feel like it. That's just dumb. If you're not Googling yourself, and monitoring the content you make available in this day and age you're an idiot.
But that was not the tone of the conversation I saw this morning.

I think (maybe) part of the conversation that sparked all this had some concern over early career scholars shooting themselves in the foot and possible ruining already slim job market chances. And I get that. There are scholars I've unfollowed or muted because their feed is nothing but too much personal information, or is constantly complaining, or trashing their colleagues or places of work. I imagine these posts and this image have or will hurt their job chances. I know I wouldn't want to work with those type of people. But again, that's not because they're grad students or early career scholars, it's because they are acting unprofessionally.

I am old enough to know exactly who I am. While my online presence is professional, it's tailored for audience, not censored. Even my Facebook which is actual-real life-know-what-they-look-like-in-person friends, is mostly just what my dog Nehi did on any given day.
What you see is what you get.
So when I'm on the job market this upcoming year, either they hire me or they don't. They like me, or they don't. I'm considered a good fit. Or I'm not.
I don't have any control over that. And I'm certainly not going to tie myself into knots trying to be something I'm not to try and get there. It's not worth, nothing is.
And nobody should be expected to.
So I think I'll stick to my character, and let everything else just sort itself out.

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