How blogging is different from tweeting

Over the last few years I’ve gradually given up on Twitter. This has been a long term process because of how deeply my professional and intellectual life was embedded into the service. Not only was it the place where a fragmented professional identity cutting across research and practice was drawn together in a way that generated the opportunities which made that fragmentation financially viable, it was also the place where I did thinking out loud. To this day I find the Twitter update interface incredibly generative for unknown reasons that clearly extend beyond the basic fact of habituation. This is how I wrote about it at the time of deleting my extremely visible @mark_carrigan twitter feed in late 2019:

I completely believe there are pockets of valuable interaction, richly dispersed throughout academic and wider networks. I think they are akin to what Tony Lawson calls eudaemonic bubbles, collectively securing immensely valuable experiences for those participating in them. But, the professionalisation of Twitter within UK universities has progressively undercut this, as its use becomes something which intersects with the institutional context in deeply obscure and rapidly evolving ways. I worry it has come to be something which hybridises the personal and the professional in the most subtly violent manner, leading work to become life and life to become work.

In that time I’ve setup another Twitter account @drmarkcarrigan when I started as a full time academic on a typical career path for the first time. I was unenthusiastic about it but figured it was objectively beneficial to my career so wanted to engage. I rapidly found myself getting sucked in again, alternating between bursts of intensive use and trying to steer clear of it for long periods of time. I’ve since deleted that account and figured that enough is enough. I experimented with repurposing the account I maintain for the Post-Pandemic University as a personal account but found I had little enthusiasm for it. I’m going to keep it dormant in case I’m wrong about the death spiral the platform is on but I suspect I won’t use it again, apart from those occasions when I really need to use every resource I have available to me to spread the word about something. There are a few other largely dormant accounts I have access to (@soc_imagination, @BSADigitalSoc, @DTCEManchester) which each have particular obligations attached to them which mean it’s not entirely my decision about what to do with them. But for the most part Twitter is not something I’m drawn towards anymore and I’m rather glad about that fact.

I’ve found LinkedIn is rapidly become an effective substitute for academic Twitter in the sense there’s a sudden influx of academics keen to have substantial discussion. But for the most part I’ve simply started blogging more than I used to. I’ve already published more posts (220) this year than I published in the whole of last year (185). This tracks a more subtle shift where my blog has returned to being the default place I turn to in order to develop a thought, responding to what C Wright Mills once called ‘the feel of an idea’ by trying to give it shape in words. It lacks the immediacy of Twitter in the sense that the tweet is already automatically out there in the world, whereas I rarely if ever directly promote a blog post via social media anymore. It’s only when I have a specific reason to seek feedback that I do this and I can only think of a handful of instances where this has been the case.

It occurred to me recently that I feel extremely differently about ‘outputs’ via Twitter than blogs. I first came across the notion of the ‘ideas garden’ via Doug Belshaw and it suggests a blog can be seen as a place where you help ideas take root and grow. This contrasts with the inherently performative feel of Twitter where the focus on immediate feedback means that individual item becoming a focal point for your reflection. In other words I care about the reaction a tweet gets because it is self-standing and immediately public whereas a blog post is an element of a large whole. It is a contribution to growing my ideas garden, for my own later use and whatever enjoyment others find in it, rather than something I have expectations of receiving a reaction for. The blog itself then comes to feel like something more than the sum of its parts: a cumulative production over 13 years and 5000+ posts which captures my intellectual development in a way more granular and authentic than anything I could manage by myself. Over time I see old posts I’d forgotten about resurfacing as people stumble across them and this long tail heightens my sense of the emergent whole. It’s become an ideas forest which people wander into from different directions, finding trails which I had long since forgotten about and inviting me to explore a now overgrown area to see if I should begin tending to it once more.

One response to “How blogging is different from tweeting”

  1. I’m the same. I got off social media last year and in that time, my blog has been my “go to” for my various thoughts and reflections (and many times), rambles. I don’t miss Twitter at all.

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