How Twitter Changed My Life

One evening last week, while watching hockey (HOCKEY IS BACK) and scrolling though twitter, I noticed a hashtag that had started to trend: #HowTwitterHasChangedMyLife. Of course, the hashtag was filled with funny and nonsensical, and more than a little sarcastic, tweets, but if it’s crossing my field of vision, it means those associated with higher education have discovered it.

Going through the hashtag, it’s amazing to see how many friendships and relationships have been formed over the social media platform; it isn’t that surprising, however, at least not to me. Twitter is in large part why I am writing here today. Twitter is how I managed to change careers. Twitter is how I survived living in an isolated rural community I had just moved to with two kids under the age of two.

Twitter has changed, for sure, particularly for academics, and especially for those of us who were early adopters (seriously, just go and read Bonnie Stewart’s research blog on this very phenomenon). Twitter does very little to protect those who are the most vulnerable, amplify the most extreme and hateful elements of our society, and keep trying to monetize in ways that take away the core features that brought us all to the platform to begin with.

And yet.

Seeing the real connections that have been made over the social media platform, started there and nurtured elsewhere, or even continuing on over 140 characters, it reminds me why I can’t quit Twitter. I still have too many friends, people I legitimately care about, who live all over the world, with whom my primary contact with them is through Twitter. People I never would have met without Twitter. It is still where I can learn a lot about a lot; I have long argued I was custom-built for the Twitter firehose, so it is the best way for me to learn.

So while there are those who lament social media for it’s tendency for us to disconnect with one another, I look to hashtags like this one to show the power that social media, like Twitter, has to legitimately and (dare I use the term) authentically to connect people. I can’t even talk about this without coming off sounding like a cliché, but for those of us who have experienced that, it’s real and it’s powerful.

And this doesn’t even get into the very real social activism that has grown on Twitter.

So while the academy tried to leverage social media for branding, altmetrics, prestige, and the like, and the stockholders try to monetize my presence and data, and trolls generally make it dangerous to be anything outside of their definition of what “normal” should look like, I’m at least going to keep my rose-colored glasses on for a little while longer, and hold on to Twitter as a special place of connection and friendship.

How do you use social media, if at all? Have your habits changed and evolved? How?

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