PhDs, Academia, and Social Media

So apparently I’m a millennial.

There’s so many definitions of exactly what a millennial is at the moment, that sometimes it’s hard to tell. If I’m not technically in the age group, then I’m close enough to count.

One of the side effects of being a millennial is that I am a constant presence on social media. I have two Twitter accounts (barely maintained), Pinterest, Facebook (personal and a research page), Instagram, Snapchat (unused), LinkedIn, Path, Foursquare, and so many other sites that have additional social media aspects. Plus this blog now, and an official website. Some of those things are based entirely on a web presence for my research/professional life. Most are not. Most of them I am incessantly checking on, every day – some because I enjoy it, sometimes because people contact me through them, and sometimes because I’m procrastinating and just wasting time. The last one I’m not so proud of. In general though, I find that I don’t actually generate much original content. I’m mostly focussed around reposting things that I think others will find interesting, and talking directly to people. The exception to this is on Instagram – which is easy for me because I’m a very visual person.

However, as a (super) early career researcher, I’m finding the world of social media an entirely different beast. Twitter seems to be the general platform of choice, with academia.edu and LinkedIn also factored in. I’m also noticing the high level of content that people are posting, as well as the different ways in which people are posting it (that’s the linguist in me kicking in). There’s an interesting distinction between the types of things that one posts on Instagram and how you tag them to how it’s done on Twitter. I know that I’m overanalysing things a bit too much, but I do think and notice them.

In short, I’m trying to maintain 15+ social media profiles, with different ways of presenting content all at the same time. I’m trying to work on my thesis, plus papers, plus conference presentations, plus teaching, and keep some sort of social life going, as well. And it is hard. Working out what on earth will interest people and is actually worth sharing is one thing, working out the balance between oversharing and not being active enough is entirely another.

The other side of content is also image. Who is the person that I present to all these different platforms. Personal, academic, professional, while they are all similar and share traits, each of them have a different set of expectations and values on attributes. Keeping them straight isn’t a chore for me (thankfully), but remembering that the same post will be perceived slightly differently is.

My age group means that social media is an integral part of my life. The era we are in means that it’s an essential part of my academic life too, and the field that I am in (and my goals for my research) make it a necessary professional tool. However, juggling them all can be absolutely exhausting, even if I’m pretty good at it to begin with. It’s another thing on a growing daily to do list, and it’s a significant addition of time to my day.

But without it, I am unlikely to achieve the goals I have for my research, and unlikely to make the friendships and connections that I am already seeing start to form.

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