The benefits of internet activity for academics have been widely enumerated. Online networks enable intellectual and professional connections; sharing scholarship on web platforms allows for timely publication that reaches a wide audience, etc. Much less has been said about the social mores that online networking seems to flout. At the risk of sounding like Emily Post, I want to highlight the potential social ramifications of online networking among academics. Because it has become so hegemonic that “a web presence” helps advance the careers of young scholars, and because these are truly desperate times for those in search of academic employment, I hope that the list below helps academics—especially early-career academics—weigh the risks of sharing their scholarship online.
Share your work. Getting other academics familiar with what you are thinking and writing about is a good thing. Not only does it increase the chances that they will cite and/or teach it, but it can make a profession in which you spend a lot of time by yourself in front of a computer much less lonely.
Comment thoughtfully. Everyone likes getting positive feedback. Of course, it goes without saying that not everyone is going to agree with what you have to say. If you disagree with whatever the original poster or other commenters have written? Do so in the same way you would approach a face-to-face interaction.
Be modest. No one likes a braggart. Posting to online social networks is currently a dominant mode of self-expression. One can participate in these forums and still have tact and exhibit humility.
Overpost. If you frequently post to social media networks about research you are working on or have published or presented, you risk alienating people. Online interactions are not always opportunities for self-citation and/or career advancement. Overposting and overly self-referential posting are akin to dinner guests who never stop talking about themselves.
Overshare. The internet reconfigures our notions of public and private. Remember that forums like Facebook and Twitter are ostensibly public venues where what you post is open to people you know in a professional context. Some things are best left for communication of a more limited scope. If you wouldn’t say something in public, don’t say it online.
Overvalue connectivity. Activity on Twitter, Facebook, or in the blogosphere does not map neatly onto scholarly gravitas. If anything, online activity might suggest the opposite. The frequency of one’s internet postings says little about the quality and rigor of ideas presented therein.
*Special thanks to Bill Kirkpatrick and Laura Russell.