On Twitter

As a person who has an avowed affinity for “all” things digital, it pains me to admit that Twitter and I are not friends.  This psychic ache is mostly because, of the many social communications/social networking platforms that have come and gone, Twitter is among the few giants that has not only endured, but I think mightily struggled to remain true to the original and pioneering spirit of equitable and accessible digital media communications. I’ll recite a bit of what I think is “right” about Twitter, in no particular order: 

  • the product itself has remained lean and focused, and is exemplary in an easy-to-use, easy-to-navigate mobile-first design; 
  • though it supports content commercialism and restricted government oversight, it has also addressed and problem-solved for hurt speech and privacy violations;
  • the “face” of Twitter, J. Dorsey, has pledged ~$1B to support global charity/aid efforts.

I put all these qualities in comparison to the now infamous Facebook (they are ~15yr old contemporaries after all) and find Facebook lacking on each point. 👎 All fine and great.  Still, I don’t care to have delivered to my inbox (so to speak), the brief, non-contextual musings of any institution or individual especially on a regular, automated basis.  I don’t care to personally contribute to the cyclonic, random mass of public user-generated content, generally of questionable quality and value. 

So I say again, Twitter and I are not great friends. 

Teaching Twitter

Therefore I have a difficult time summoning enthusiasm for encouraging people, particularly students looking to me for guidance, to establish a Twitter presence and/or to use Twitter as an academic tool.  However, I’m still quite sure that as a communication device and reference point it does have value (as discussed and demonstrated by Ringrose in her digital feminist work), and I would support anyone learning about Twitter and how to use it for any purpose it might be suited for. 

In any case, I would teach students about Twitter and approach it as a potential source of information rather than a place to network (and I hope, admit and examine my own bias while doing so).  I would ask students to look at the tool critically, and discussions in preparation to “launch” their academic selves on Twitter might include “ownership” of posts and the meaning of “online identity”.   Low stakes work could include writing offline posts for critique (as Boysiere allowed for in her ‘Twitter Guide’ coursework) and compiling brief lists of insightful posts (“tweets”) by academics centered around a given topic. 


I chose to discuss Twitter and not Wikipedia here, because it’s my opinion that Wikipedia fairly clearly has educational value in that it is actually intended to be a collaboration and reference site and also operates as a publicly-funded entity. 

Disclosure: I donate to Wikipedia operations every year! and I enjoy occasionally visiting the English-language homepage and learning something from the “article of the day”.

I strongly support students learning what Wikipedia is, how to use it, how to review its sources and authorship and how to become authors/contributors themselves. 


Boysiere, “Twitter for Academic Purposes: How to Guide Students

Ringrose, “Digital feminist pedagogy and post-truth misogyny

2 thoughts on “Twittering”

  1. It’s surprising to see so many folks in our class feeling this way about Twitter, if only because my own graduate experience (and path to DH) was marked by a positive and hyper-present Twitter academic community. It seems to me that this is changing, and the volume of negative or empty tweets are outweighing any potentially more positive experience to be had with the platform. I also wonder if Twitter is becoming niche — do we need students to learn or have some awareness of it for potential future academic or professional work? Or merely as a window into small and specific communities?

    1. :wave: just wanted to send a quick response! I know we covered these topics as a group in class last week, but fwiw I’m doubling-down on my opinion, that ‘Twitter for education’ is already somewhat niche – and certainly, students should be educated about it. At the same time, it is much more than a network of academics – and providing a clear understanding of that, I mean what the “Twitter-verse” entails and pathways to more information, should also be a part of general digital media/social literacy as well. IMHO! 🙂

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