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Does Avoiding Social Media Limit An Alt-Ac Career?

The cost of staying away from Twitter, Facebook and blogs in an emerging and networked profession.

November 14, 2017
 
 

Do alternative academics utilize social media more than traditional academics?

I’m having trouble answering this question, as I’m only seeing the alt-ac side of the divide. From what I can observe, it does seem as if much of alternative academic life takes place on social media.

Alternative academics, lacking many of the traditional disciplinary-based assets that bind traditional academics (journals, conferences, professional organizations etc.), have seemingly adopted social media our medium of communication, collaboration, and exchange.

What alt-acs have in common is not usually our training, methods or theoretical frameworks. (The attributes that bind traditional academics within a discipline). Rather, we share with our fellow alt-acs the challenges of navigating careers as non-faculty academics.

Alternative academics, marginalized by traditional paths of connection and visibility, have found each other on social media. 

My hypothesis is that the typical alt-ac is more involved in Twitter, blogs, and perhaps Facebook than the average traditional academic. This should be a testable hypothesis. From what I’ve observed, alt-acs gravitate to social media for community, recognition, and a voice.  There is currency in the alt-ac community for growing and nurturing an active social media community.

If my hypothesis is correct, and if social media is indeed a critical element of the cross-institutional community of practice for alternative academics, then where does that leave those alt-acs who are not on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, or other Web 2.0 platforms?  Are we damaging our long-term career options and prospects by not building a network of colleagues through social media?  Are we missing out on opportunities to speak or write?  Are there jobs that we are not being recommended for because we lack an online persona?

There are some good reasons to stay away from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, blogs, comments, and the entire world of user generated content.  Many of us are suspicious of any medium in which private companies monetize our contributions, data, and networks.  Facebook and Twitter don’t exist to serve their users.  Rather, they exist to serve their owners.

Still more alternative academics may simply think that spending time communicating online is not a great use of that time.  Every minute spent on social media is a minute not spent reading a book.

Others of us just may be private, shy, or simply have no interest in creating and curating a digital presence.

The question is how much of this choice not to be online will be career limiting?

If you don’t show up much in Google searches will hiring committees conclude that you are not “in the conversation"? Is the size of one’s Twitter following a signal of academic status for alt-acs? Is the ability to be simultaneously witty, humble, and woke on Facebook better than any set of recommendation letters or performance reviews? Does the refusal to waste one’s time in the blogosphere a mark of good judgment, or an indication disconnection?

Has avoiding social media limited your alt-ac career?

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