Wendy Stone is the Director of Global Academy Jobs and a long-time Twitter user
Twitter is still my favourite social media channel for information and entertainment. Although I now check and post on Instagram more often than I did before, Twitter is still my favourite platform if I really want to find out what’s going on. The platform’s infinite scrolling offers more quality content that I could ever really consume, and our @academyjobs Twitter account can keep me enthralled for hours.
Why? Because we follow academics, and academics are some of the best Twitterers. Academics write well, have fascinating research to talk about and tend to be opinionated. What could be better?
I know there is an age bias at work here. I’m pleased to see more and more PhD candidates using Twitter, and their supervisors tweeting about the achievements of their students, but generally youngsters are not flocking to Twitter. It’s a more demanding social media channel than some others, but for those of us who want to hear from experts it is more than rewarding.
This year was my 12th on Twitter, so yes, I was there close the start in 2007. It has changed a lot in that time and, if you decided it was not for you in the past, you could take another look now. Newer tools like lists, who to follow, hashtags, pictures, longer posts and a whole array of new functions have made it easier than ever to build your own engaging Twitter feed.
If you want to either take your first look at Twitter or revisit a moribund account, hashtags will help you follow people who tweet about things that interest you.
You should follow @academyjobs of course (we tweet about much more than just jobs) and you may also like our sister @1GlobalAcademy account. Then type a general hashtag like #WomenInSTEM, #AcwriMo2019, #phdchat, #ECR or #AcademicChatter into the Twitter search bar to see a list of tweets from people and institutions. Hover over the name of a Twitter account for more details and decide whether to follow that account.
You may also find some more discipline-specific hashtags like #biophysics, #artsandhealth and #phages that show you Twitter users in your field. There are thousands of these, so type in plenty of terms until you find something delivering tweets you find interesting. Conference or event hashtags like #OAWeek19 and #Museum30 can also be fascinating. Journals in your field will have accounts too.
Once you are following 30-100 accounts from people and institutions, you will find an interesting ‘stream’ of tweets from engaged academics whenever you check Twitter. If you follow people around the world this stream will change constantly, all day, every day. You will find ideas, research or researchers that are new to you, entertainment, aggravation and occasional emotion – just like the real world beyond social media.
Why do academics love Twitter? And what about all the politics?
If you follow interesting people who are mostly academics and researchers your twitter feed will be rich and engaging. It will most likely also be full of politics. Academics think about stuff – a lot – and they tend to have strong political views, particularly around current events. I feel American academics have taken to Twitter in larger numbers since it became such an important part of US politics, so naturally they tweet about political events and issues alongside their own work. If you follow people who are thinking more often than ranting, the politics will only occasionally drown out the research and academic talk, and it’s all right there on your desktop, tablet or phone.
And unlike the real world, you can switch it off if it becomes overwhelming.