Why is academic twitter so depressing?
Shortly after deleting my personal Twitter account, I made a new account to promote this blog (@TheFiveSR). I had deleted my personal because I found its never-ending feed caused overwhelming negative emotions and hopelessness. On top of that, I didn’t feel particularly motivated to do anything about it. I was quite passively engaging in posts, comments, and mean remarks. I had to get off.
I’m not really off, though. Now, I am on “academic” Twitter. Instead of following friends, family, and journalists I agree with, I follow accounts with names like “Academic Chatter”, “thoughts of a PhD”, and “PhD friend.” These accounts model what I think I want this blog to be: a documentation of what it is like to be a graduate student and academic. These accounts are heavily engaged, tweeting and retweeting multiple times per day and liking anything with their hashtag. I received ten times as many likes on one tweet by adding a “#phdlife.” This meant I received 10 likes.
Through following these accounts and the people they “retweet,” I experience academic twitter. Academic twitter, above all, is a place for people to vent. Experiment not working? We’d love to hear it. PI an asshole? Please share! You haven’t done any work the past three months? Me neither.
Academic twitter is a place to wallow. Yes, it is also a place to celebrate, to publish, and to find out something new. It’s a place to promote exciting side projects.
I feel for all the PhDs that are struggling, really struggling. I think Twitter provides that extraordinarily powerful service of making one feel they are not alone. I don’t want to discount how valuable that is, and can’t say I am anywhere above needing it. But I’m not sure how useful it is for me to know the depth of struggle—frankly, sometimes it makes me want to re-consider my career choices. It makes me want to quit my PhD while I still have detectable vitamin D levels.
I’m realizing that Twitter is Twitter, and it’s time to say goodbye. I’m choosing to foster connections in other ways, ones that are still there when my computer dies.