Natalia Kucirkova is Professor of Reading and Children’s Development at the Open University
During the lockdown, increased online communication made it clear that social media are a key place to stay in touch with the world around us. With their persuasive marketing techniques, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter’s algorithms are designed for exponential growth and not for deep conversations. They are designed for amplifying content that is typically the most controversial, latest or shocking news. And yet, social media are also the place where professionals share useful resources and academics exchange latest research papers. For millions of users, social media are the place where they begin and end their daily interactions. So, whether you hate them or love them, you probably realize that you should be part of at least one social media platform. But what if you are one of the digital introverts whose heartbeat goes up even by receiving a group email? What if you prefer alone time rather than the mega social conversation?
If you are completely new to this, there are many guides and resources for how to set up a social media account, what content to share or how to interact as a digital scholar. The Digitally Agile Researcher book is one such resource. Oliver Quinlan and I co-edited it in 2016 at a time when tweeting and blogging academics were an exception rather than the rule. It is fascinating that the trend flipped within the space of a few years. It seems to be common knowledge now that as researchers and scholars, we serve the public interest and this includes participating on social media. But even though there are more researchers sharing their studies with thousands of followers, there are still many researchers who find social media engagement hard. It’s not for a lack of knowing how or why it is good to tweet.
It might be because they are introverts. They find the noise and pace of information exchange overwhelming and they prefer quiet places, where they can browse anonymously. I am one such digital introvert. Personally, I prefer to like and re-tweet rather than write my own posts. I like writing blogs because I can write them slowly and quietly and pace myself when and how I respond to the readers’ comments. A blog also gives me something to tweet about. I do not share my private or personal thoughts on Twitter (I have another account for that), but I like it when other academics do that. There is no clear right or wrong here. I am sharing this to encourage the digital introverts among you to embrace your unique interaction style as a strength. Social media are new spaces that we need to develop the etiquette for. That’s why it’s good for all of us to be part of the conversation. Perhaps we could start a social media guide for academic introverts?
Natalia Kucirkova is Professor in Reading and Children’s Development who joined the Open University in July 2020. Her PhD focused on supporting children’s story-making with digital and personalized technologies. Currently, Natalia is working on a project that examines the ways in which personalized books might support children’s empathy towards other children.