About one in 40 academics use twitter, with an average of five tweets a week.
Glen Wright describes how twitter serves as a ‘virtual water cooler, a place where academics go to build community, have some fun, and let off steam.’
And in true academic fashion, there is even a project called Academic Obscuria, documenting ‘the hidden silly side of high education’, which in part involves studying this online world.
Hashtags utilised by academics include #PhDchat and #ScholarSunday, or perhaps most excitingly, #AcademicsWithCats, which in just the last week has been tweeted 100 times by 76 contributors.
A large twitter profile is very handy too for a bit of self-promotion, selling books and linking to articles. But a big platform is also a responsibility, as classicist Mary Beard, a lecturer at Cambridge University boasting 188,000 followers, discovered last month, when she tweeted this message in response to the Haiti Oxfam scandal and found herself in murky internet waters when she was accused of excusing abusers.
Short of giving students their marks and feedback via the platform, academics take to the social media sites for close to anything else. From communicating their (late night) views on the current pension strike, to rallying for causes they care about to celebrating the careers of those leaving their department (bye Gwenda!).
Their tweets are often coated in academic terminology and, with any luck, some wit.
If you’d like to join the procrastination, sorry, uh, academic conversation, this blog has a handy list of some of the best academics on twitter that you should be following.