Twitter has become a space that many academics have increasingly come to use in promoting their work. The communities on the platform allow new ideas to be shared more quickly and valuable research collaborations to be formed. Many academics have found jobs through postings on Twitter or used engagement metrics to show the impact of their work. Unlike academic journals, Twitter is also a space where researchers can engage directly with journalists, policymakers, industry leaders, and members of the public. These engagements can help educate the public about new research findings, and it can also work to combat the spread of misinformation (Stecula, 2022).
However, with Elon Musk’s acquisition of the social media platform on October 27th, many members of #academictwitter are expressing concern about Twitter’s future. Musk’s plan to reduce content moderation on the platform in the name of “free speech” has many worried that Twitter will become a space that is more hostile and less safe, especially for women and minorities. A rise in posting racial slurs on the platform in the days after Musk took charge of Twitter is beginning to confirm some of the worries academics have (Kupferschmidt, 2022). Is Twitter set to become an unredeemable toxic space, one that researchers in good conscience cannot support?
While these fears are understandable, it is too soon to tell. The fate of Twitter will likely be decided more gradually, as policy changes are enacted, and as people make individual decisions to keep engaging with the platform or to find something new. And for researchers, the choice to disengage from the platform is not an easy one. Many have spent time and energy cultivating a following and making connections. Losing all of that effort at once would be hard (D’Agostino, 2022). Thoughts expressed by Jefferson researcher Dr. Tim Mosca on his Twitter account likely mirror those of many other users of #academictwitter, ” [I]’ve been here a while and seen a lot….this place has grown, the community has grown, and it’s done a lot of good. [I]’m not ready to give it up yet.”
However, he is exploring Mastodon with an account on drosophila.social, a server for the Drosophila research community. Dr. Rebecca Jaffe is trying it out via the med-mastodon server. (Some Mastodon servers are not currently accessible if you are using Jefferson’s campus network.)
Ultimately, what this unrest might do, states Dr. Mark Carrigan, author of Social Media for Academics, is reinforce the importance of “digital public engagement” to the academic community, and invite researchers to “think much more seriously about the infrastructure [they] rely on for digital scholarship” (Carrigan, 2022).
Stecu?a, D. (2022, Nov. 4). Academic Twitter is worth fighting for. Inside Higher Ed.https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2022/11/04/academic-twitter-worth-fighting-opinion
Kupferschmidt, K. (2022, Nov. 4). As Musk reshapes Twitter, academics ponder taking flight.Science. https://www.science.org/content/article/musk-reshapes-twitter-academics-ponder-taking-flight
Carrigan, M. (2022, May 3). Leave, adapt, resist- Time to rethink academic Twitter. LSE Impact Blog. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2022/05/03/leave-adapt-resist-time-to-rethink-academic-twitter/
D’Agostino, S. (2022, Nov. 4). #AcademicTwitter will endure- for now. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2022/11/04/professors-and-academics-will-stay-twitter%E2%80%94-now