I belong in that category – maybe too superficial for some, maybe too optimistic for others – that strongly asserts the full rights of social media in the very sophisticated academic world. It not only creates connections and valuable networks, but also helps to advance discussions and reach a wider, very often international audience.
Before an extensive explanation of the points in favour of a serious social media commitment, one more note about the issue of time. Many academics rightfully assume that there is not enough time to read and prepare articles and books; thus, social media can only aggravate the serious shortage of time. And it can also be addictive, right? My answer is that discipline, a well-praised skill for achieving academic productivity and professional success in general, can help to introduce social media into the daily rituals without creating serious challenges. For instance, you can assign to this activity specific slots of time in the following way: 30 minutes in the morning to check your Twitter feed and the comments on your blog, 1 hour during lunch time to write a blog post, another 30 minutes in the evening for more updates from your network. A dedicated time of maximum 2 hours each day can offer you successful entry into the online world, from the comfort of your lunch table or while commuting from home to the university. Thus, you will not feel guilty that you wasted your time without taking care of your career.
Here are some of the main reasons why I always advise intensive use of social media for academic purposes.
Blogging – It’s easy to set up your blog for free, pick a theme that characterizes your style, have a short online tour about some basic technicalities and start blogging. I use both Blogger and Wordpress, but I will always recommend, especially for newbies in the domain of blogging, the Blogger platform. Especially if you have a Gmail account, it helps you to instantly connect with the various professional communities via Google+.
Blogging helps you to share your thoughts, even the most complicated ideas, and also share many articles that probably were not approved for publication by sophisticated peer-reviews. It does not mean that the standards are below the usual academic high-end. If you write academic articles, your audience belongs to this elitist environment and thus, you will be judged accordingly. Your free online space will help you to be creative and genuine, and write as much as you need to cover a variety of topics. Maybe you are the Renaissance type of intellectual and thus, your interests are diverse enough to be covered only by one publication.
If your blogging turns into a regular activity, it will dramatically help you to become a better writer. A certain routine – a minimum of 500 words every other day, maybe – will offer a lot of improvement to your writing style. Overall, you will not go through anxious moments when faced with a big white page on your computer waiting for your ideas.
Another advantage of blogging is that you can have visibility and connect online with other academics. Such an advantage works equally for Facebook and Twitter. Create a page for your blog on Facebook and invite your academic friends to join. Connect with academics, teachers and authors – you will be surprised to discover how many have joined the online world and how many will finally decide to join in the next few years, too – and join the global conversations. There is a huge potential for creating networks and valuable connections that will contribute for sure to a variety of new collaborations and exchange of ideas.
Last but not least, on the long list of advantages of using social media as an academic, there are the impressive opportunities for online learning. You can be a teacher and develop your own tutorials and online consulting modules, but in addition, you can learn, sometimes, completely for free, about new skills, academic opportunities and other topics of interest to improve your knowledge and profile. Information about such classes are easily traded on social media and the more you understand how the system works, the more advantages you will have for a healthy academic life.