Step 13: Manage Your Social Media Presence

A while ago I wrote on my other blog why I decided to keep my social media accounts (and online presence in general) public during my job search. My starting this blog means that it didn’t have a detrimental effect – at least, it didn’t prevent me from getting a job – but I now have a couple more thoughts on the topic. There are two main things that have changed since I wrote that post a year ago: first, that I am now a professor; and second, that I am now following (and being followed by) other professors at Oxy. The simple fact that my colleagues are reading my tweets has changed my attitude a lot, mostly in the direction of avoiding vulgarity. For example, one tweet I would otherwise have published goes, “Hi, welcome to Helios Tanning Parlor. Are you looking to be sun-kissed, sun-groped, or sun-fucked today?” While I like the pun, it’s vulgarity is somewhat shocking, and does not present the image that I want (especially since I haven’t met my colleagues yet). It was surprising to me that I would bow to this consideration at all, since in the post I had explicitly named some of my tweets as sexual or offensive. I named four in particular, in order of least to most likely that I would tweet the same now:

  • Latin pop quiz! What is the plural of “vagina”? #vaginae
  • I am without sin, much as I am without unicorns. I shall cast the first stone.
  • Isn’t “want to be raped” an oxymoron?
  • Door knobs are so amusingly lacking in attributes, cf. alive, musical, creative, clever, active, funny, etc. as a door knob.

That I am reluctant to publish some of them now suggests that it’s not something specific to my sun-kissed tweet above, but that my attitude has changed. The taboo for the first two is clear – sex and religion. The third one is different if only because I’m not talking about rape as an action, but as a word with a particular definition that precludes it from being wanted (this is almost, but not exactly, the use-mention distinction). And of course, the last tweet says nothing negative about me that would make me hesitate now. I suppose that needing to project an image as a new professional is different from not wanting your image tarnished as a job applicant. Which brings me to my next issue. Most of the faculty I follow tweet mostly about their professional activities, with the occasional tweet about their non-academic interests. In comparison, I tweet in the style of non-academic “public” figures (eg. Existential Comics, Pat Rothfuss): mostly puns, wry observations, and the occasional random fact. In particular I don’t tweet about computer science at all, and I rarely write about it in my other blog either. This is not a deliberate choice, but a result of feeling that not everything I do has to be about computer science – and most of my free reading isn’t about computer science. I’m not sure if there is a point to this post, beyond wanting to discussion changes in how I use social media I’ve noticed in myself. I don’t think that the online presence of academics have to be entirely about their subject of study (or otherwise have no online presence at all), but it certainly feels a little out of place for it to be mostly unrelated to their job. I won’t go and delete the tweets from before, but I don’t intend on creating new ones in the same vein either.

Step 13: Manage Your Social Media Presence

2 thoughts on “Step 13: Manage Your Social Media Presence

  1. Carmel says:

    This one calls for a reply from a colleague 🙂 For me, different platforms have different audiences. My Facebook friends are mostly people I actually know, and that is where I put baby pictures, food chatter, ideas for social events, etc. On Twitter, I mostly interact with other scientists, largely people I’ve never met, so I keep that relatively professional.

    I actually haven’t worried all that much about my image to my colleagues but I am definitely paying attention to what students can see. They do like to know “something” about us, and in my first years I was very deliberate about what kinds of information I wanted to share. Now I’ve loosened up a bit, but I think it was good to think about it early on.


    1. Hi Carmel! Interestingly, I think a lot of computer scientists (at least the ones I interact with) prefer having their own blogs over using social media – it probably has to do with how much control they have. My Twitter is mirrored on Facebook, so I don’t differentiate between content on the two. I’ve never been worried about students, and now that I’m also more conscious about what I put on Twitter, I have even less reason to be concerned.


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