I recently attended the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG for short) annual conference in London. It was my first major conference, and it was also my first academic event since I began using Twitter in earnest. I tried to engage with Twitter and the conference hashtag (#RGSIBG14) as much as possible during the week-long event. As a result I felt that my experience of the conference was enhanced. In addition, I gained around 10 new Twitter followers, and this blog was even mentioned on the Eventifier social media summary of the conference due to my shameless self-promotion.
Tweeting during events is not something that feels natural to me. I mostly tweet using my phone, and it goes against a lifetime of my parents’ scolding to use my phone whilst talking or listening to someone. Particularly when listening to someone present a paper, tweeting just felt a bit rude so I tried to do it as surreptitiously as possible. The boundaries surrounding the live-tweeting of academic events should perhaps be a topic for discussion. Not everyone uses Twitter, and the last thing I want is for people to be put off or upset because I appear bored by their paper, whilst actually they have just said something that I thought was interesting enough to share with others. Is it rude, or is it just extending the debate into another format?
There are obvious benefits to using Twitter at conferences. If I like someone’s paper, I can follow them on Twitter to keep up with them and their work as it progresses. I can get the gist of sessions that I don’t go to as other people tweet about them. Through my use of Twitter, I have also raised my profile as an academic. Several times during the conference, I had the surreal experience of someone that I had never met coming up to introduce themselves, because we had communicated previously through Twitter. It was nice to put faces to Twitter handles, but it also proved to me the merits of Twitter as a networking tool. I am better known amongst the academic community than I otherwise would be because of my participation in the twittersphere.
I know that Twitter is not everyone’s cup of tea, and I think there needs to be more discussion about it’s use amongst the academic community, but I also think it can be an incredibly useful tool. Please comment on this post with your own thoughts and experiences on Twitter, I would love to get a discussion going!