Alt-Ac Conversations and Social Media as the New Smoking

Where alternative-academics gather.

July 25, 2017

"I have to wonder if someday there will come a time when social media will become the pariah of our social circles. That the dude off in the corner consuming his Instagram feed will be looked at the same as the guy standing at the street corner sucking on a Marlboro. I wonder when we will see TV and radio commercials about laser treatments to cure your addiction to Facebook games and Snapchat pictures. Will there be social media consumption tables at restaurants or Facebook isles on airplanes?”

Jeff Nagle, Social Media Is The New Smoking

What should alt-ac world make of Nagle’s assertion that social media is the new smoking?

Our alternative-academic conversation is occurring, after all, almost exclusively on social media.

If there is an alt-ac conference, I’ve not been invited. My academic library does not subscribe to the journal of alternative-academics, mostly because I don’t think that it exists. If my institution ever had an alt-ac department, or a major in alternative-academic studies, then perhaps it was closed down before my time. Nobody I know has a PhD in alt-ac.

And yet, here we are.

The alternative-academic identity has been formed almost entirely - at least to my knowledge - on social media platforms. (If this is not right, we will learn of this error on social media).

The countless assertions, insights, misunderstandings, bad ideas, epiphanies, flashes of insight, open exchanges, uninformed comments, wise judgments, witty observations, trivial complaints and profound connections that have been required to form a cohesive identity around alternative-academia have mostly occurred on social media.

We alt-acs - us not quite academics but not really administrators - have found each other on social media.

We meet our people on twitter (mostly I’d say), in blogs (maybe less and less) and other social media platforms that seem to become uncool the minute I join (Slack anyone?).

I’m sure there are alt-acs on Snapchat and Instagram, and maybe even Pinterest - although not this alt-ac.

My personal opinion is that any alternative-academic who uses Facebook should have their alt-ac union card revoked - but happily nobody cares what I think.  (Least of all people on Facebook - which by latest count is about everybody).

Can you imagine a gathering of more than 3 alt-acs where someone doesn’t start to tweet out the conversation?  An observer from another planet could be forgiven for concluding that alt-acs think in increments of 140 characters.

Talks given or attended by alternative-academics seem to be less of an opportunity to listen and interact with each other in a room, and more of an excuse to inform everyone in one’s professional network about what is being said.

Professional meetings attended by academics have long since become excuses to backchannel on our various digital platforms.  Our bodies might be at the physical conference venue, but our attention is firmly directed towards our digital spaces.

Would you attend an academic conference that banned not only the production of social media, but its consumption as well?

If social media is the new smoking, then most alt-acs are chain puffing 2-pack a day-ers.   

What is your social media drug of choice?


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