Social Media is Bad For Your Career? Maybe Not, a 2018 Ignite Talk

16 April 2018, 2003 EDT

Today, there was a twitter conversation about whether doing public engagement, especially blogging and twitter, are penalized or not.  The timing is good since my Ignite talk at the Duckies was very much on this stuff.  So, I thought I would share what I presented at the Online Media Caucus reception at the annual meeting of the ISA in San Francisco.

The basic theme was: there are things people tell you not to do, so let me know show how I did them.  I did start by acknowledging my privilege–that a white male straight tenured prof can get away with more stuff than other folks (thanks, Will).

I started with my theory about department politics–that every department has somewhere between 10-25% dysfunctional people, and the question is whether/how the community handles the insane, evil, criminally stupid and/or tragically lazy.  I did note that I managed to get another job after posting this one.  I forgot to mention that this did not produce even a ripple in my old place.  That I was already on the outs with the chair and most of the Fulls, well, that probably did not get in the way of posting this.

Should one avoid attacking the big names?  Well, the surest way to get lots of hits (figuring out what is viral [viral for me, not viral compared to the average meme] is pretty hard) is to go after the big names.  However, that is not why I wrote this post–I wrote it because I was triggered by a deeply flawed piece by two scholars that, well, tend to jerk my chain.  Lots of irony abound in this as I wrote an article that went through many spin cycles (two desk rejects and then R&R&R&R&R) that argued that the fears of the big names were misplaced–that grand theory is not dying out as it has always been a niche enterprise and that professionalization actually rewards grand theory via citation counts corrected with such stuff. That article is finally out via early view at ISR.  So, yelling at the gods can be good for one’s publication record if such stuff inspires academic work.

Out a serial sexual harasser?  Indeed.  This post is almost certainly my most important one, as it has given a number of people some relief that they are not alone, and it serves as a signpost that will hopefully warn future generations of students away from this guy.

Should folks hide their political opinions?  My students used to ask me about my political views as they could not tell from my lectures–I would be critical of  Democratic presidents and Republican ones.  Not so much anymore.

Should one make bold predictions outside one’s lane?  Um, given how it went, probably not….


Should one curse?  FFS, yes, in this age of Trump.

Should one criticize one’s professional organization?  Well, when they screw up royally, hells yeah!  This made sense as a segue to the end of the presentation since the ISA blog mess led rather directly to the creation of the Online Media Caucus.

My big point at the end is that we notice those who get punished for their social media efforts, but the reality is that there are many, many folks out there doing stuff that is probably more controversial than what I do, and they don’t get penalized.  Our confirmation bias focuses our attention on the few that are punished rather than the many who are not.  I posted a bunch of headlines and then a picture of my getting an award from Carleton for public engagement–that the place that hired me wants me to do stuff like this.  Maybe not exactly this stuff, but they seem to understand that having some personality and a particular perspective facilitates outreach.

With the recommendation that we develop herd immunity–the more, the merrier:

So, perhaps the best advice I could give is probably not do as I do, or do as I say, but do what you feel comfortable doing.  The world of social media has been very, very good to me, with some handy networking that has spilled over to help Aspiring Filmmaker Spew (aka College Senior Spew).  I know I am not alone in benefiting from social media, and, as I argued, there are more of us than there are those who have paid a price.  Join us.