Twitter is a powerful, yet often under-utilised networking space for graduate students. Healthy use of Twitter has the potential to provide friendship, support, connection, and opportunity. Below are 6 tips to help you get the most out of Twitter as a graduate student.
1) Represent yourself
Your bio is your chance to tell the world who you are and what you do, so be sure to make the most of it. Use this space to paint a clear and concise picture of your research and interests. When interacting online, don’t be afraid to show multiple sides of yourself. You don’t know what aspects of you people will connect with and remember. Academic Twitter isn’t all about work. If you have other hobbies, share them! Do you knit? Do you run on the weekends? Do you have a passion for interpretive dance? If you express yourself honestly you’ll come across as genuine and as someone people will want to connect with.
2) Find your community
Follow academics and organisations in and around your research area. This will allow you to keep up to date with announcements and potential opportunities such as up-and-coming conferences, job advertisements, talks, and other events of interest. Building a community of people that you follow and interact with online opens up sources of support, advice, and community for you to turn to. I created the Academic Chatter Twitter account for these very reasons. It is now an active hub for support and conversation in the academic Twitter community, and a good place to start when looking for new people to follow and engage with. Online spaces like this allow you to connect with people all over the world and provide a community that is available to you at any time. To get the most out of these spaces, include academic hashtags such as #phdchat, #gradschool, and of course, #academicchatter in your tweets. This will help people to find you.
3) Communicate your research
As a graduate student, you are beginning the journey to producing new and exciting research. Other people will be interested in what you’re doing. Use social media to share what it is you do, and why you love to do it. This is an opportunity to communicate to a broad audience and build interest in your work. A strong communicative voice and passion for what you do are highly sought after characteristics in academia. One way to do this is to bring the audience into the intellectual process itself. Emily WIlson gave an excellent example of this when she shared the difficulties of translating Homer into English. Indeed, her use of Twitter has been held up as particularly innovative.
Twitter is very much a “you get out what you put in” environment. Think of it like a conference; you can sit back and gain little, or you can walk around talking to people, asking questions, showing interest, and making connections. Those who gain most from social media are often the ones who put the most in. Don’t be afraid to engage people in conversation, including those further along in their careers. Remember that your fellow users are humans, and not titles! If you don’t initially feel comfortable jumping right in, spend some time observing how others interact. In time you will find yourself engaging effortlessly with a wide variety of people. Having a presence in relevant spaces can lead to opportunities at a later date.
5) Be Kind
Treat everyone with respect and be charitable when interpreting the words of others. Twitter is made up of a vast array of personalities, each of which may be interacting with the space differently. Kindness on social media extends beyond respectful interactions. Use your voice to share the work of others, celebrate the achievements of your peers, and support those new to online spaces. Remember, practicing kindness online strengthens the community that you are building.
6) Practice self-care
It’s common to experience feelings of loneliness and frustration during your graduate journey. During these difficult periods, knowing when to disengage from social media is as important as knowing when to engage with it. It might take a little time, but learn to recognise when you’re feeling like an interaction is not going anywhere. You are not obligated to respond to anyone. If you feel an interaction is causing you distress, step away (this might feel difficult and unnatural at first). Use the block and mute features to curate your timeline to suit your needs. This is your own little piece of digital space, it’s important you feel at home.
How have you found using Twitter as a graduate student? Do you think you could get more out of your social media use? Let me know in the comments!
[image by mkhmarketing at flickr.com and used under the creative commons license]