For a very long time, I did not see the point of Twitter. When it first came out, it just seemed like an even more pointless version of Facebook that limited posts to status updates of 140 characters or less. For the most part, I thought people only used Twitter to comment on the minute and insignificant things going on in their lives (e.g. what they had for lunch, etc); however upon further inspection over the last year or so, I have found that this is not always the case for all Twitter users.
I really started to change my mind about this social media platform when I started to see my Professor’s, other academics, and museum professionals using Twitter to communicate their ideas to a larger audience. I started to wonder what Twitter could do for me as a graduate student, art historian, and emerging museum professional.
At the very basic level, I think of Twitter as a tool to develop and practice certain skills. By following, re-tweeting, commenting on other user’s posts, and having other users follow my posts I am networking on a global scale while practicing my social media skills. Twitter can be a great place to connect with others in the same field or those who are already working in a job that you would like to see yourself in one day.
It also provides a great opportunity to participate in global conversations about the things that interest you. For example, if you are interested in museums and technology it might be useful for you to check out the hashtag, #musetech or #musesocial, where there are conversations about how different museums are using technology and social media. Your voice will count in these conversations; you can comment, share, or test out your ideas, and have others provide feedback or advice.
Twitter can also be inspiring for an academic or museum professional. It can be incredibly helpful to see what other people are doing, and it can provide ideas or insight into new avenues of research. You’re able to discover what’s important to people, and why, if you listen. The power of Twitter isn’t just in talking. It’s in listening. I have followed hundreds of people and organizations that interest me, and I learn something new from their tweets every day. I learn about what is going on in the art world, what research is being conducted by my peers, and I learn about events that are of interest to me, like conferences, lectures and exhibition openings.
How you use Twitter will determine what you get from it. For example, I use Twitter as an academic and an aspiring museum professional. It is an extension of my online presence and a professional and intellectual tool that I find incredibly useful. So depending on how you use it, Twitter can be extremely rewarding or it can be dissatisfying. It is all about following the right people and participating in the right conversations based on your interests. (Not to mention, being aware of the different social media and how to use them is a key marketable skill in today’s world.)
If you haven’t already got a Twitter user account, I’d recommend getting one. It will expose you to different ways of thinking, and will help you practice your networking and social media skills at the very least. There is a niche for everyone in the global participatory culture that Twitter embodies.
Soon to come: “Tweeting Art History”