Using social media as a [newbie] academic – Part 2: the challenge of “finding the time”

Last week, Åsa Cajander and I held a seminar on “Social Media to Promote Research and Impact Society” for some of the researchers within NORDWIT – the Nordic Centre of Excellence (NCoE) on Women in Technology-Driven Careers. The reading and thinking I did in preparation for the seminar inspired a first blog post, published last week, on the benefits I see in using social media as a researcher. In this post, I will be looking at the other side of the picture and discuss one of the main challenges I have encountered in relation to the use social media, in particular with blogging and Twitter: finding the time to produce and consume social media contents.

I mentioned in my last post that one of my main motivations for starting a blog – and one of the main benefits of blogging according to many academics – was to get me to making a habit out of writing. However, although my blog has pushed me to write more than what I would have done without it, I have on multiple occasions decided to let writing the next post slide. The main reason for this was that I felt I just could not afford to dedicate time to this activity – even if skipping it meant I was falling short of my goal (publishing a new post at least once a week). This too-bad-but-you-have-more-important-things-to-do attitude has not only been directed toward blogging, but also to any activity on social media – be it blogging, tweeting, or reading social media contents. (For instance, only a few weeks after creating my Twitter account, I disabled the app’s notifications on all my devices and refrained from opening it altogether, overwhelmed by the additional flow of information.) As a result, I have of course not been blogging as much as I had planned (though my list of topics to address on the blog is getting longer every day!) and have been unable to keep up with what the people I am following on social media have been publishing. This in turn has led me to feel not only constantly stressed out and guilty over not reaching my goals, but also generally dissatisfied with my work performance.

Talking about this problem with others, and reading an interesting book chapter about it (in Mark Carrigan’s Social Media for Academics, which I can only recommend), made me realize that I had simply overlooked the need to develop a strategy regarding social media use. If social media – blogging, tweeting, as well as reading and sharing others’ contents – are to be an integral part of my working life, I need to explicitly make space for it, recognizing that those activities can and should be prioritized when needed. Until now, though I recognized to some degree that using social media could be beneficial to my working life, I still did not allow myself to put it on equal footing with my other “secondary” work-related tasks – answering e-mails, reading research-related books and articles, going to research seminars, etc. However, writing my previous post has made me want to change that, and to give blogging, tweeting, as well as consuming relevant social media contents dedicated time slot(s) on my schedule.

In my next post, I will address another challenge I see related to the use of social media: maintaining one’s integrity.