By Mark Carrigan
How do you find the time for social media? I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I have been asked this question over the years. I have often struggled to respond because I disagree with the assumption which often lurks behind the question. If we see social media as something scholars need to make time for, it assumes social media is something extrinsic to scholarship. It is framed as an additional burden, something to add to a to do list, rather than being a way of doing scholarship. Social media is scholarship, at least to a certain extent. This can seem like a profoundly counter-intuitive statement, reflecting the continued presence of many who see social media as irrelevant to or actively contrary to the real business of the university. But if we look at what scholars actually do on social media, we find many activities which are obviously scholarly. If we focus how social media is being used, rather than the platforms themselves, it becomes easier to see how they can be incorporated into day-to-day routines. If we can incorporate social media into our workflow, it no longer becomes a question of ‘finding time’ for social media but rather of the time which social media enables us to save.
This might sound far fetched so an example would be useful. How do you prepare for talks? This blog post is being written to prepare for a short talk at the start of the first drop in session which myself and Tyler Shores are running in May 2018. I went on a night time walk, mulling over potential topics for the session before coming back and writing the blog post in one sitting. Tomorrow morning, I’ll read back over it before the session. The blog post is an integral part of preparing for a talk. The immediacy with which I release it out into the world, the expectation of a response and the familiarity of the WordPress interface make it much easier to gather my thoughts and prepare an argument than it would otherwise be. I find a blog post of 500-750 words to be a fantastic way of preparing for a short talk of 10 minutes or so. It also saves me time. It documents the session Tyler and I are doing as a by-product of preparing for it. It also allows me to gather my thoughts more quickly than other methods I’ve tried, though perhaps less reliably for longer talks. For more complex talks, I often need a multi-stage process, such as a Twitter thread followed by a blog post. Twitter threads can also be a superb way of reflecting on a talk after it has taken place. The tweet below is the first in a thread picking up arguments I made at the CPGJ work in progress seminar, giving me an opportunity to finesse my understanding of them following the responses to my talk:
What activities do you undertake in a typical working day? On the day I’ve written this post, I’ve prepared a statement of support for a funding application, planned and promoted upcoming events, designed the outline for an upcoming workshop and wrote this blog post. Not all of these activities could be conducted through social media. But there are always ones which could be. If you find yourself trying to find time for social media, I recommend looking carefully at how you use social media at present. What are you using it for? Then consider the scholarly activities you engage in each day and see if there are ways in which social media could be incorporated into these. If it becomes an item on a to do list, it’s likely to be a burden and it probably won’t be one you prioritise. Whereas if you find ways to incorporate it into your everyday working life, it will be immediate and enjoyable, as well as perhaps saving you time.