How much time per day do I spend on social media? And how does it compare with, for example, the time I spend writing an academic article or reading a scientific book or preparing a research project? It is worthy to dedicate so much time networking on Twitter, Facebook or other social networks, exchanging e-mails or making comments instead of silently worshiping the silence of the libraries and the quiet lonely meditation about the last book I’ve read followed by a sophisticated writing account?
I often ask myself these questions, and many more, regarding the impact of these online activities on my career. Unvaryingly, the answer is that I must continue to keep my virtual life alive.
At the same time, I am aware that one could survive nowadays completely in 2.0 or 3.0 or whatever other number .0 worlds, without disturbing your “reveries of a solitary walker”. I know a couple of well-respected academics who do not have an e-mail account, or even a cell phone, and they still continue to keep their scientific record. As in so many other kinds of activities, it is a matter of your own choice and fully assumed decision.
A couple of years ago, when social media was at its very beginning, I was wondering myself as well how I should keep the right balance between the need to consolidate my knowledge through a serious academic education and the curiosity towards what this new (virtual) world is all about. But, I must recognize that my overall interest for new and challenging situations won over my reluctance and skepticism.
And, at the end of more than five years of constant involvement and amazingly rapid development of social networks, I have some positive and encouraging conclusions:
â— The chances of finding people with whom to share the same interests are increasing. The dedicated academic/research networks – such as academia.edu, or Mendeley or MyNetResearch – offer extraordinary opportunities to find new projects, share articles and academic preoccupations. The language learning resources – as, for example, LiveMocha – are convenient opportunities to improve a foreign language, a key to accessing new resources for your studies.
â— If you have something to share – ideas, articles, projects – it is more likely that you will be able to get a wider – global – audience online, than if you keep discussing it in a small and geographically limited environment.
â— By getting more social-networking friendly, the academic world does not have anything to fear. Rather the opposite is true: however narrow your area of study, the scientist is part of an environment that she or he has to acknowledge and understand. However limited the immediate social relevance might be, this connection cannot be eliminated or denied.
Are there negative outcomes? It true that in many cases you might have the sensation of wasting your time, missing deadlines or encouraging procrastination – for example, you could chose to read new articles instead of putting your own thoughts on (virtual) paper.
But, in fact, you behave online as you are in offline, and as long as you know what your objectives and targets are, it is nothing to complain about. There are thousands of resources waiting for you; all you need is to have your priority list always in your mind. Keep it on a piece of paper or on your BlackBerry; the choice is always yours.
Ana Dinescu is a regular contributor to University of Venus and a PhD candidate in history at the Faculty of History, University of Bucharest, with a background in Political Science. She has been a journalist for ten years for Romanian daily newspapers and is currently a communications consultant, living in Berlin.