Times Higher Education has another of those tedious articles in which some learned academic harumphs that you should not use social media. This one is kind of interesting, though, because his reasons why you should not tell us a heck of a lot about about Gabriel Egan.
How many friends have you got, and how many people do you know? If you use social media such as Facebook and Twitter you can probably quantify these things quite readily, but the answers will be wildly inaccurate as we all routinely overestimate these things.
What is more, the answers will be irrelevant to your work as an academic. We are all quite naturally obsessed with what our friends and acquaintances think of us and we crave evidence of the esteem in which we are held.
In return for feeding our desire for evidence of how we are doing in our social interactions – our narcissistic craving for others’ approval – first Facebook and then a group of other social media corporations persuaded half of humankind to give up their most intimate personal details.
So Gabriel Egan thinks people engage in conversations on social media to run up the score, to get a quantitative tally of how many friends you have? Is that how he thinks?
Gabe, Gabe, Gabe. I know there are some people who think that way, carefully counting their twitter follows and facebook likes, but the people who are really good at social media are using it as a channel for communication and self-expression. They are not keeping score. If you are, and especially if you think that’s the whole reason for using social media (or publishing papers or getting grants), you’re doing it all wrong, and your reasoning about it is invalid.