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Still Troubling, Still Useful: Thoughts on Twitter

March 3, 2022

March is typically a time when students, colleagues, and just about everyone under the (usually cloud-covered) sun experience fatigue. Spring break for many is either here or around the corner, and everyone is capital-T Tired. This extra-unprecedented time of global crises, though, is not typical.* Persistent “return to normal” messaging adds to the stress, at least for me. It’s no wonder that motivation, creativity, and cognition levels seem so low.

When thinking about what does help inspire or motivate me — or remind me what day of the week it is — I came to a surprising conclusion. Aside from people in my life, somehow, it’s content on Twitter.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

As a member of Twitter teams for several organizations, Twitter feeds have been valuable sources of updates on issues in librarianship. Colleagues and publications around the world share amazing discoveries and ideas in their tweets. I think I’ll always prefer and miss Google Reader, but this is another way to get updates on topics of interest in one place.

Of course, Twitter and other social media platforms can be deeply problematic (to say the least) with hateful, deceptive, abusive, and just plain terrible content. Users can mute, unfollow or report accounts and tweets, but those aren’t perfect systems. Some users can now also try Safety Mode, a tool the company is rolling out as a way to “reduce the burden on people dealing with unwelcome interactions.”

When the platform seems especially overwhelming, I limit what I do to what’s needed for the task at hand, and then I log off. Finding relevant content quickly is made easier by following or creating Twitter lists and checking those feeds, instead of the main feed or trending topics. Also, I intentionally get very few notifications — another It’s Academic blogger, Kayla Van Osten, shares good reasons why.

Content on Twitter is often mentioned in conversations about misinformation, with plenty to research and read about. Many of us work with our communities on strategies to evaluate information, while also trying to navigate misinformation we come across online in our daily lives. (For more about this: The Thinking Behind Misinformation by Alex K.) Recently, Twitter expanded its pilot of a crowdsourced fact-checking project called Birdwatch, with a feature for users to put notes on tweets they think contain misinformation.

Overall, I’ve found that customizing Twitter for my own well-being takes a little more effort and setup than it used to, but the platform remains a resource for learning and also, for advocacy — take “Librarians fight book bans with Twitter takeover” as one example.

Do you use Twitter to keep up with librarianship, reach your communities, get updates on conferences and CFPs…? What are your recommendations?

* Side note: To whoever keeps jinxing us by saying “things could be worse,” might I suggest saying “things could be better” instead?

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