Why You Come, Why You Stay

I’ve been on Twitter for a little over six years, and the readings for Week 2 got me thinking about my networks and what I bring and get out of Twitter.

For a long time, I divided my Twitter usage into “personal” and “professional.” The latter was anything dealing with pedagogy, interacting with students/former students, or conversations and sharing resources with scholars in similar fields. There are some amazing people doing digital scholarship on Twitter in both Classics (Sententiae Antiquae) and Mesopotamian culture (Dr. Moudhy Al-Rashid) among others. I thought about trying to make and maintain Twitter lists, but I’m not really a list maintainer (I mean, I can make them, no problem!).

On the personal side of my Tweets, lots of them were political, with others revolving around sports, movies, and just general goofiness. I used gocardigan to delete my tweets every three months or so. This system worked pretty well for me, for the most part.

That was until this past 27 May and the murder of George Floyd. As a straight, cis, white male academic with tenure, I finally brought myself to as rigorous an examination of my privilege and apathy as I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve begun the long-term work to change my habits and dispositions in a variety of ways–what I read, what I teach, how I teach, and how/what I use my social media for.

In the Twitterverse, that meant changing my timeline. I began to follow a number of accounts of Black authors, scholars, and activists. With but a few exception, I’ve dedicated my own timeline to issues of structural racism in America (and in the American Catholic Church), police brutality, Whiteness, and the need for just social and economic structures in my country.

Twitter is my main news source (for better and for worse). I read, tweet, and RT quite a bit everyday. So, changing the content of what I see on Twitter is not a minor thing for me, because now I’m seeing, reading, and interacting with a lot of people and ideas that I’d otherwise would not have known.

The rather obvious, but really significant takeaway for me is this: I came to Twitter seeking out people like me. Now I stay on Twitter for the absolutely essential need to listen to people who aren’t like me. These first, small steps are part of a larger project of trying to be part of a network where I decenter myself.

(2) Comments

  1. Howard Ebert

    Tom, I love your blog. I too think it is so important to read a variety of material from diverse perspectives and want to use different forms of social media to enlarge my conceptual universe.

  2. Maha Bali

    Love this, ” I came to Twitter seeking out people like me. Now I stay on Twitter for the absolutely essential need to listen to people who aren’t like me.” And hopefully eventually, the listening to people different from you can build into relationships of trust

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