I've recently returned to Twitter having taken a bit of an extended break from it and having been back for a while now, I have been wondering what kind of role I'd like Twitter to play in my academic (and personal) life.
My Twitter break happened almost by accident. My husband and I decided to go 'off-the-grid' during our honeymoon in October and so I deleted the Twitter app from my phone for the week... and then never re-installed it!
I found the week off Twitter quite refreshing and so decided to continue with it before deciding what to do with it. A couple of months passed. I found myself feeling less stressed without the constant comparisons with other academics (particularly other PhD students) and their insanely productive weekends. I also felt a lot more focused on my work and spending less time online in general.
I did also feel a little more isolated than I had done and coupled with the fact that I am in the throes of writing up and therefore spending more time at home or in the library than at my institution, I was beginning to feel a little disconnected from any kind of academic community.
I have, however, discovered the joys of a real-life support system in the form of a PhD writing group. Lucie Whitmore over at the SGSAH blog has written more extensively on the format of our writing group. So all that there is left to say is that it has been a bit of a PhD-saver for me this year and is probably one of the main reasons I haven't really missed Twitter.
So having recently returned to Twitter, what role does it play in my academic life?
I think Twitter is still a really good place to share useful links. I've definitely missed finding out about the latest Calls for Papers (although mailing lists do get these to me most of the time), blogs and just generally what everyone else is up to.
This isn't the only use of Twitter of course and I know that some academics are questioning the role of academic twitter in the face of the politics of the last couple of years which tend to dominate our Twitter feeds. As academics, should we be participating in these discussions as a matter of obligation? I'm not so sure.
There is also the fact that Twitter's growth as a company is stagnating. This article by David Giannetto explains it better than I could but if Twitter really has nowhere to go and the format (140 character soundbites) is becoming tired, what will academics turn to next to network and share their research with a wider audience?
I am back on Twitter, albeit with less enthusiasm than previously, and probably will stay there but will definitely be managing my time on there a little more effectively. Perhaps by allocating a set time each day/week to check it and keeping any extensive tweeting to conferences and big events.
What role does Twitter play in your academic life? Are there any alternatives out there that you're enjoying more?