A week or so ago, a young PhD student wrote a piece in the UK’s Guardian newspaper entitled “I’m a serious academic, not a professional Instagrammer”. It has, as Sjoerd Levelt jokes, “got academic twitter back from holiday”. The hashtag #seriousacademic has exploded, with Google finding 5,730 results already at the time of writing – an average of about one mention every 2 seconds since the article posted. Responses have ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous (pies, fancy dress, academic Olympics, swimwear, skeletons on the loose,snack drawers, ducks, and of course, cats).
What emerges is a clear message: social media is not a thing apart. It’s a conference (“a meeting of people with a shared interest“). It’s a publication (“the action of making something generally known“). It’s a discussion group. It’s a journals club. It’s media engagement, it’s public engagement. It’s simply a different way of facilitating the same fundamental behaviors that have always driven academia. Social media is now woven into the fabric of how we communicate.