You’re doing it wrong

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.


  1. qwints says

    They are not keeping score

    Maybe not explicitly, but a whole lot of people seem to find validation in numbers.

  2. says

    Now I’m made to remember a certain someone who at one time used Facebook friend numbers as a threat. We don’t get quality trolls like that around here anymore.

  3. congenital cynic says

    I don’t use any of it because I simply can’t imagine why I would want to. Too many things to do as it is without adding a constant drip of banal comms to filter through. Maybe this is a sign that I’m getting old.

  4. says

    If you wanted to complain about social networks as an arena for social competition, LinkedIn seems like the more obvious target.

  5. marcoli says

    I don’t spend any time on Book Face, or the Tweeter, but I ‘spose those who count a lot of virtual friends in those dimensions probably also have a lot of friends here in meat world.

  6. ck, the Irate Lump says

    Somehow I have twitter followers despite never having posted a single thing on my twitter account.

  7. methuseus says

    I used Facebook for a while. It seemed to be a numbers game for everyone else, and I was expected to make numbers by my “friends” on the platform. When they tried to make me feel bad for not using Facebook the way they wanted me to, I stopped using it and am, ultimately, happier.

  8. says

    My main reason for not using most forms of social media is simple: I tend to write long, and they tend to reward writing short. Second reason: I have a very dull life, and I don’t see why anyone other than myself needs to be bored rigid by it. Third reason: For all the various forms of social media I’ve seen out there, the people who are most eager to have me participate in using it are the people I least want to keep in touch with.

    I blog occasionally, but mostly I just leave comments elsewhere.