Social Media Advice for Academics


“Remember, whenever you engage online, you are building and curating a public identity for yourself. Do so thoughtfully and choose your risks wisely.”

That’s Rebecca Kukla, professor of philosophy and senior research scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University, writing at the Blog of the APA. In her post there, she lays out her view of the importance of social media in the professional lives of philosophers, and provides some guidance for more junior academics about how to use social media well.

Acknowledging that navigating the terrain of social media can be tricky, that the norms for doing so are still emerging and in flux, and that everyone’s specific social situation is different, Professor Kukla offers some good general advice, largely centered around Facebook, on how to present yourself, how negative or boastful you should be, curating the audiences with which you share different kinds of information, engaging in philosophical disputes, asking for assistance, and standing up for what you believe. If you make use of Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms, I encourage you to take a look at what she says.

But should you be making use of social media? Professor Kukla thinks that “there’s no doubt that staying off of social media altogether can actively harm your career, while using it wisely can actively help you, and can genuinely enrich your professional and intellectual life.” She elaborates:

A huge number of professional opportunities show up first and most prominently on Facebook, both as formal announcements and through informal discussions. A great deal of philosophical conversation that shapes the debates in our field happens on social media. Co-authorships and collaborations often take root online. People get to know one another’s personalities and research through these media. it clearly helps in getting interviews and invitations if people already know who you are, and like you and think highly of your ideas. I have certainly learned about the work of graduate students and young scholars through social media, and then offered them invitations and opportunities, used and assigned their work, and sought out their company at conferences as a result.

It’s true that some junior scholars have benefited professionally from actively participating in social media. But it is not clear to me that staying off social media is generally harmful to one’s career. I would bet that the overwhelming majority of philosophers in the English-speaking world have never participated in a philosophical dispute or a discussion about the philosophy profession on social media, and it is not clear that most of their careers are worse than they would have been had they spent more time on Facebook.

One thing to note is that participation in social media has nontrivial opportunity costs (other writing, reading, dancing, sleeping, etc.). That’s true even without acknowledging that anyone on social media is someone who has at some point spent more time on social media than they themselves think they should have. Yes, some people’s research and productivity are helped by time on social media, but some people’s are hindered.

Another thing is that not everyone has access on social media to the people who are sharing significant professional opportunities or who are having influential philosophical conversations. For these people, it is not clear that their careers would be helped by spending more time on Facebook.

This latter point leads to a different kind of concern with Professor Kukla’s claims about the importance of Facebook: unfairness. Not everyone is Facebook friends with philosophers who are thought to be influential or important in the profession, who, for example, have conference spots and journal slots to distribute. Some philosophers accept all Facebook friend requests, but I think most do not.* If people’s careers are in fact being advanced by their participation and performances on Facebook, then this is another way in which cliquey effects and biases shape the profession.

I think Professor Kukla could say here that she is giving us her view of how social media in fact operates in the discipline, and advice on what to do given that—not that she is endorsing the reinforcement of various forms of unfairness that may be amplified by social media. I think she could also draw attention to many examples of people who have used social media to make professional connections that otherwise would have been unlikely given forms of unfairness and inequality elsewhere in academia.

What would be nice, then, is a way to take advantage of what social media has to offer, without the attendant amplification of certain forms of unfairness that Facebook, especially, seems to bring. There is Twitter, but it can be vicious, given its openness. There is PhilPeople, the new philosophy directory and social media site from the people behind PhilPapers, but I’m not sure how much use it is getting. Hmmm… what else… oh yes… there are blogs, like this one! I know, it’s not open enough for some, too open for others, and limited in topics (though suggestions are welcome), but it’s an option.

Discussion welcome.


 

* I, for one, almost never accept FB friend requests from people I have not either met in person or had significant online interaction with already.

Related: “New Media in Psychology and Philosophy“, “Public Philosophy via Facebook Check-Ins

 

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Daniel Kaufman
2 years ago

My webzine has Facebook and Twitter accounts, but they are used exclusively for announcing new posts. I personally use no social media. I created a Twitter account once but never used it.

And never will. After watching how these platforms are used and the effect they have had on our discourse and relationships, my impressions are almost entirely negative. Indeed, I think their effects are sufficiently pernicious to justify substantial regulation, especially in the case of younger users. Though I find how adults — especially in our profession– use them equally depressing.Report

Fiona Woollard
Fiona Woollard
2 years ago

“I think she could also draw attention to many examples of people who have used social media to make professional connections that otherwise would have been unlikely given forms of unfairness and inequality elsewhere in academia”

I think this is a really important point. I’ve found Facebook an incredible way to stay in touch with the philosophical community when it has been difficult for me to travel due to childcare responsibilities and financial considerations. Although not everyone has access to the virtual philosophical community, the costs of engaging are much less than the costs of engaging face to face. So there is a real opportunity here to overcome unfairness. I think that senior members of the profession should think about what they can do to help make Facebook fairer. One option is to engage with groups that allow any one with a particular interest to join and to make friends with people that you meet through those groups. I’ve found many Facebook friends through “Teaching Practical and Applied Ethics” and “Academic Mamas”.Report

Earnest Honesty
Earnest Honesty
2 years ago

I disagree with most of Kukla’s post. You have a voice. Use it. By all means think through the consequences of what you say online before you say it. But don’t follow someone else’s long list of do’s and don’ts. Be your own person.Report

Earnest Honesty
Earnest Honesty
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
2 years ago

I oppose the general premise of giving “suggested rules for how to limit and shape your social media presence and engagement.” I find it stifling and disempowering.Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Earnest Honesty
2 years ago

The way I think of it, social media is just another form of communication, sharing some features with face-to-face conversation at a bar, some features with academic publication in permanent written format, and some features all its own. Like with any of these other forms of communication, there are more effective and less effective ways to use it, that can help one get one’s point across (and also get recognized) or that can obscure it (or make one look bad).

While “suggested rules for how to limit and shape” one’s conversations at the bar, or one’s academic publications might feel “stifling and disempowering”, I think that if there is value to the examined life, then there is value to examining one’s social media presence and thinking intentionally about how to do it. (Which might involve agreeing with someone else’s advice, or disagreeing with it, but probably not just dismissing the idea of advice as nothing but a killjoy.)Report

Dale E Miller
Reply to  Earnest Honesty
2 years ago

Isn’t there some tension between the content of the post and the fact that you posted it anonymously? (By the way, whatever the arguments against FB, the fact that you generally know who is saying what is to me a real virtue.) Report

Earnest Honesty
Earnest Honesty
Reply to  Dale E Miller
2 years ago

I don’t see any tension. I advocated using one’s voice and one’s own best judgment of how to do so. In this circumstance I judged anonymity to be best.Report

Dale E Miller
Reply to  Earnest Honesty
2 years ago

Be your own person. Just don’t let them know which person you are. 🙂 Report

Earnest Honesty
Earnest Honesty
Reply to  Dale E Miller
2 years ago

I use my voice publicly much of the time. I don’t need to do it all the time. And I don’t think people should be pressured to do so or aspersions be cast when they’re not comfortable with it.Report

Dale Miller
Reply to  Earnest Honesty
2 years ago

Maybe I misread your post, which I had taken to be about the desirability of people having a modicum of courage about expressing their views online.Report

Christina Hendricks
2 years ago

There are also those of us who have actively chosen not to be on Facebook on principle, given the number of worries about security of data and how it is used lately. It would be sad if we thought we had to give up those very important values in order to participate well in the discipline.

If anyone is interested in another alternative, one where your posts can have a range of publicity and the platform owners aren’t actively trying to monetize your data, try Mastodon: https://joinmastodon.org/

It’s a little hard to understand at first, but basically you can join an ‘instance’ (check out who the owners are, how it’s governed) and then see messages from anyone you follow on any other instance, or indeed all messages on another instance that someone on yours follows. I am on scholar.social (for academics/teachers: https://scholar.social/) and social.coop (a cooperatively owned and governed instance–platform cooperative: https://social.coop ). Report

Rob Hughes
Reply to  Christina Hendricks
2 years ago

Mastodon is great! It has several design advantages:
1) When one boosts a post (the Mastodon equivalent of retweeting or reblogging), one cannot attach a comment, critical or otherwise. Replies are separate posts. People rarely boost posts to express outrage about them.
2) Posts can have content warnings. You click to see the body of a post with a CW. There is a strong norm of using content warnings on posts with political content, so that people can read their feeds when they are not in the mood to think about politics.
3) Moderation is decentralized. Each instance has its own policies about how to moderate its users’ posts. Instances’ administrators make their own decisions about which other instances to federate with. Most instances choose stricter moderation than Twitter does, in the interest of maintaining a welcoming environment.
4) Timelines are strictly chronological. There are no opaque algorithms determining what you see when.
Choosing a Mastodon instance is tricky for most new users, but for academic philosophers intending to use Mastodon professionally, the choice is easy: https://scholar.social is the place to start.
A limitation: Mastodon is designed for public discussion. There are some ways to limit who sees your posts, but it’s not set up for large private groups, and it’s not the right venue for sharing family photos. It’s intended as a rival to Twitter, not to Facebook.Report

Caligula's Goat
Caligula's Goat
2 years ago

I’d like to add another point against the use of social media (especially F-book and Twitter): it’s wrong to enrich companies like them by giving them more engagement. There are so many many ways of engaging online with philosophers (including this and other excellent blogs) and increasingly fewer good reasons for giving up your privacy to multinational corporations like F-book and Twitter that I think, for ethical reasons, philosophers ought not use them. Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
2 years ago

Some background: I am an Assistant Professor, currently up for tenure. This is not intended as advice for those looking for a tenure-track job, or even those on the tenure track like me—in that case I agree that it is probably best if you can maintain a thoughtful social media presence. Doing so has not been a great fit with my personality, which is why I have opted out. I find social media to be a good tool, but in general I prefer a slower pace of living, and so am not currently on Facebook, Twitter, etc. As a graduate student I was on Facebook to connect with friends and family and was disturbed by how much professional philosophy took place over social media—it removes boundaries that I think are valuable in one’s work life. I think it would be helpful to junior philosophers if they were not expected to be connected with senior philosophers on their social media accounts (I felt pressured to “friend” people in a domain I would have rather left to non-work friends). I don’t know many people outside of philosophy who are expected to interact with senior members of their profession in this way, and when I have talked about it with others they seem shocked by it. Yet, I have sometimes used social media and even benefitted from it (thank you to those who have reached out to me with cheering and thoughtful messages!). I take it that by disengaging I may be harming myself professionally in some respects—I am less available, less visible, less connected. But I greatly value friendship in my personal life, and find I am more available and connected to those around me, with more meaningful relationships, when I am off social media. Also, while I think it can be helpful to connect online in a discipline as globally dispersed as ours, most graduate philosophy programs are very close together, with an impressive number located within a few hundred miles in the Northeastern United States. While at BU, I was surprised at how even the few miles between the many graduate philosophy programs in Boston were rarely crossed, even for quite renowned visiting speakers. Perhaps this is yet another place where the internet has favored the global at the loss of the local. I know that I could do more to explore what is close to hand, and I hope to use my “extra” energy to help build the small philosophy community in Merced (shout out to the new major!). Of course, people like Rebecca seem to have endless energy, so this is not really relevant to people like her. And perhaps PhilPeople will allow for a different, more professional style of social interaction online. Finally, public facing philosophy is another matter, and I applaud those able to use social media to share the benefits of philosophy with those outside of the discipline. Perhaps I will get there one day. Ezra Klein, who seems able to use social media successfully, has a thoughtful podcast on this: https://art19.com/shows/the-ezra-klein-show/episodes/fe52f503-a7ec-4eae-9c98-6bd5976e8766 Thanks for the post, Justin!Report

Colin McGinn
Colin McGinn
2 years ago

I don’t use Facebook or Twitter but I do have a blog. My main purpose with this is not to let it get overrun, so I try to keep it unpopular, which has not proved difficult. Report

Family Ties
Family Ties
2 years ago

The problem that I have with moving necessary career development to Facebook is that it blurs the lines between the professional and the private. The way one engages with friends and family becomes part of the professional landscape. One’s job becomes intertwined with one’s identity far beyond the work itself. I understand that for some philosophers philosophy is their life and they wouldn’t have it any other way. However, the profession will be worse off if only those who live and breathe philosophy 24/7 are the ones that succeed leaving out any who have diverse obligations, interests, and experiences. Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Family Ties
2 years ago

I think this is just a stronger version of the problem of so much of academic life occurring after-hours, in discussions at the bar, late-night conversations, weekend conferences, etc.

It’s hard to tell whether the modern life of quick three day round-trip plane flights, and constant low-level social media engagement, is worse or better on this front than the days when people like Quine made their name by taking a multi-week ship voyage to Europe in 1932 and then spending months visiting multiple cities, in between years of little engagement with the European establishment.Report

Timothy Hsiao
2 years ago

This is *highly* ironic coming from Kukla, given what she’s said in the past, especially regarding Swinburnegate.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Timothy Hsiao
2 years ago

I didn’t think her a very good spokesperson on the topic either, but as I am so negative about social media in general, I would reject the advice, regardless of whom it came from.

I did laugh a little when I saw where it was from, though, I admit.Report

beauvoir's baby
beauvoir's baby
Reply to  Timothy Hsiao
2 years ago

Timothy, do you think would you have said that without a pseudonym if you didn’t have a permanent position? I am a PhD student and I am trying to work up the courage to comment under my real name. Even though I interact with integrity while using a pseudonym, I feel awful creeping around in the shadows, and I don’t want to capitulate to a culture that uses threat of social and professional sanction to suppress an honest and robust exchange of views.Report

On the tenure track
On the tenure track
2 years ago

I’ll happily accept the career risks associated with staying off social media if it means I get to save my soul in the process.Report

Bertrand Aristotle
Bertrand Aristotle
2 years ago

I know some people who had a disagreement with Kukla on social media over a contentious comment of hers. One of them was later advised that it’s not a good idea to cross her, because of her political clout within the discipline. Contrast this with the fact that she felt complete comfort in writing what she did about Swinburne. A very real instance of privilege in academia is that of having the correct opinions. Report

Rebecca Kukla
Rebecca Kukla
Reply to  Bertrand Aristotle
2 years ago

Mostly I am fine with anonymous criticisms rolling off me. But I am super interested in anyone coming up with a single example ever of my using ‘political clout’ (really?) to harm someone in the discipline.

I’m pretty sure Swinburne, who was not in fact the target of my comment as the record clearly shows, is doing just fine. No idea what other examples anyone could possibly have in mind.

I don’t actually expect a non-anonymous meaningful answer to this question but I just want to put it out there that I take my integrity very seriously and believe that I have never punched down once in any way that has harmed anyone.

That’s all I have to say about it – not interested in a back and forth.
Report

Giving You What You asked For
Giving You What You asked For
Reply to  Rebecca Kukla
2 years ago

Here’s a recent example: Your social media comments regarding a co-authored presentation at the ’18 Pacific APA in SD. You leveraged your intra-professional political clout to raise everyone’s confidence in the belief that the presentation was controversially argued.Report

Giving You What You asked For
Giving You What You asked For
Reply to  Giving You What You asked For
2 years ago

Sorry, hasty category mistake: that the presentation was controversial and the thesis wasn’t carefully argued for.Report

Mark Alfano
Reply to  Giving You What You asked For
2 years ago

GYWYaF: I take it you’re referring to Rebecca’s comments on my thread about the presentation titled, “Are Political Minorities in Academia Victims of Epistemic Injustice?”

The title alone establishes that the presentation was controversial, so I don’t see why you bring up controversy. I guess you mean to focus on the assessment of the quality of the presentation.

Since I was there and pointed out one of the many serious flaws in the talk during the Q&A period, I’m happy to confirm that it was a truly awful talk. The speakers engaged in a series of non sequiturs and confused shout-outs to brain-imaging studies, then “concluded” that conservatives are victims of serious and systematic epistemic injustices in academic settings. This thesis was indeed not carefully argued for.

Of course, there’s a difference between pointing out that an argument is deeply flawed (part and parcel of ordinary philosophical discourse) and punching down in a way that professionally harms someone. Would you like to produce evidence of harm unprofessionally inflicted, or is this just right-wing snowflake-ism?Report

Assistant Prof E
Assistant Prof E
Reply to  Mark Alfano
2 years ago

I don’t find it professional (“part and parcel of ordinary philosophical discourse”) in the least bit that you would talk like this about the work of two recent PhDs in the profession online in even semi-public forums.

And I’m as left-leaning as they get, so you can’t explain away my reaction as “right-wing snowflake-ism.”Report

nobody
nobody
Reply to  Assistant Prof E
2 years ago

She didn’t just say it was an awful talk; she said that they were awful philosophers with no talent.

-Another very far left-leaning person who has seen first hand that when golden children of (e.g.) feminist social ontology give abominable talks, the world piles on the praise. Exercise: imagine what would happen if someone straightforwardly had said this about such a golden child. Report

Joe
Joe
Reply to  Assistant Prof E
2 years ago

I’m glad this has come up. I was party to the post, also count myself as pretty left-leaning, and while I was completely shocked by the language and tone, what was worse were the follow-up comments, a kind of pile-on of support and signal-amplification. This, merely a couple of years after the discipline united in criticizing BL for attacking less powerful members of the discipline (not exactly the same of course, but surely analogous). Professor Kukla, if you’re reading this, please consider that power is often invisible to those who have it, and that you can exercise enormous influence without feeling as though you are doing so. Report

Mark Alfano
Reply to  Assistant Prof E
2 years ago

Solid use of whataboutism on the “golden children of (e.g.) feminist social ontology.” Bonus points for inviting us to imagine a case as lurid and ridiculous as we like rather than, you know, pointing to actual evidence. A+ effort.

PS~ Any of you anonymous trolls is welcome to tell me privately when you think I’ve crossed a line. That’d probably be better than doing stuff like this or hurling homophobic slurs at me elsewhere online.Report

awfulPhilosopher'sFriend
awfulPhilosopher'sFriend
Reply to  Mark Alfano
2 years ago

As another (far) left-leaning philosopher, I want to register my disgust at Kulka’s and now Alfano’s disparaging comments about the talents of two young philosophers who are on the job market. I personally know one of these young philosophers. I disagree with so many of his views, but I think he is an excellent thinker and people should seriously consider hiring him, despite these comments by Kulka and Alfano.

Also, I’m on the job market and I would never ever dare to write my name under this post. But a senior member of the profession has called people on the job market “awful philosophers with abhorrent views and no talent” and then their friend is defending them by saying “We meant the argument was awful”. It’s so disturbing to see this bullying behavior continued, and no other senior member of the profession is saying anything about it. And you are the bunch who wrote long petitions about Leiter’s bullying behavior, and signed your name under it….Report

Mark Alfano
Reply to  awfulPhilosopher'sFriend
2 years ago

My last comment here, since this seems pretty futile…

(1) I first commented because an anonymous troll (“Giving You What You asked For”) referred to me while making misleading insinuations.

(2) “nobody”: Presumably Kukla didn’t assess the quality of the talk because *she wasn’t there*. But she is familiar with the philosophical work of the speakers. Wouldn’t you prefer people to comment about what they know and not what they don’t know?

(3) “awfulPhilosopher’sFriend”: I have not commented — here or elsewhere — on the “talents” of the speakers. I only went to one talk by them and don’t know enough about their work to speak about their talents. If you bothered to read what I wrote, you would have noted this. I also made no suggestions about whether they ought or ought not to be hired by whom. What I said was that they made a series of truly awful arguments that involved non sequiturs and confused allusions to irrelevant brain-imaging studies. Finally, I didn’t say anything about what “we” (Kukla and I) meant. We are, as it turns out, distinct people, who don’t speak with one choral voice.

(4) The cowardice of all this anonymous trolling is really remarkable.Report

Incredulous
Incredulous
Reply to  Mark Alfano
2 years ago

I second Assistant Prof E’s point. I wasn’t at the presentation and haven’t followed any of the controversy. I also have no idea at all who you are Mark or what you work on, but, to my mind anyway, this sort of public attack on a presentation by junior scholars is outrageous. On the other hand, apropos the topic of the thread, it is a wonderful example of how not to use social media – so it’s useful, at least to that extent.Report

CN
CN
2 years ago

“The misogynists and the bigots and the Trump voters on your page are likely to harm you, because they are harmful people with no moral compass.”

One of these is not like the others – or are we seriously to believe that Scott Soames and half of everyone’s grandparents lack a moral compass? This view expressed by Kulka about Trump supporters is embarrasingly naive and harmful. We all know many Trump supporters who are kind, compassionate, and have a moral compass. And no, I didn’t vote for Trump. But I’m educated enough to know that many of his voters are not as Kulka describes them. Philosophers are supposed to be critical thinkers. We can do better than this.Report

Mark Alfano
Reply to  CN
2 years ago

Indeed, we must recognize that there are some very fine people on both sides.Report

Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith
2 years ago

I guess my view is the following: if it is good to distribute various benefits (opportunities to collaborate, etc.) within the discipline to grad students and non-tenured faculty on the basis of their social media presence because The Right People simply happen to like them enough, then it should also be good to do this with tenured faculty. Basic fairness seems to require this.

Now we can achieve this sort of situation in a variety of ways. One thought, at least right now, is that tenured faculty should be required to submit their names, links to all social media, and the past several weeks/months of text messages when they submit a paper to a journal. Then, people will comb through the social stuff in addition to the paper, and if both of these things meet the arbitrary whims of the referees and whoever else, the paper can be accepted. Another possibility is simply to eliminate tenure entirely and require everyone in the discipline to toe the line in the same way. After all, if we are committed to standards of minimal fairness and decency, and if we think it is good and acceptable for grad students and non-tenured faculty to maintain this weirdly curated, pseudo-human public appearance in order to catch the eye of The Right People so they can get a job, then tenured faculty should have to do this as well, something easily achievable by simply eliminating tenure (and thus getting rid of the power of The Right People, at least in part) in the first place.Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Andrew Smith
2 years ago

“if it is good to distribute various benefits (opportunities to collaborate, etc.) within the discipline to grad students and non-tenured faculty on the basis of their social media presence because The Right People simply happen to like them enough”

I think the way this is phrased is mistaking the view. As I understand it, the view is that it is good to collaborate with, and invite to conferences, people who will be strong participants and contribute to the goals of the collaboration and the conference. We all have limited means of finding out who all the people out there are, and what their skills and talents are at contributing to collaborations and conferences. It used to be that you could only figure those out through meeting someone in person, or on the very rare occasions (usually once a year at most, and less for most grad students) that they manage to publish something in an academic journal. Social media is another means for discovering people (often people at geographically distant locations from you, who had bad luck on their first journal submission or two) that have these relevant skills, and inviting them.

It’s clearly got all sorts of exclusionary features, but so does every other means, unless you try to force people into some impossible regimen of actually reading every single published paper in their field, and ignoring any information that they gather from in-person discussions.

But in any case, the point is that collaborations and conferences have a goal, and you want to find the people that will best help you achieve those goals. They also incidentally have benefits for the people involved, but if you think of collaborations and conferences merely as benefits for the participants, then you are already giving up on the idea that there is any reason for people outside the profession to care about it.Report

Phoenix, Son of Amyntor
Phoenix, Son of Amyntor
2 years ago

I thank Prof. Kukla for raising this issue. I’ll admit that this issue hits a nerve for me because I’ve consistently avoided social media. Hell, even the idea of PhilPeople raised my hackles, but Chalmers’ patient replies to my worries have tempted me about its potential value.

I’d like to summarize what I see here as the criticisms of using social media even for professional purposes:
1. Facebook’s use of our data (Hendricks)
2. Enriching companies like Facebook (Caligula’s Goat)
3. Slower pace of living and more meaningful relationships when offline (Jennings)
4. Loss of boundaries between personal and professional life (Jennings, Family Ties)
5. Internet mobbing (Hsiao, Bertrand Aristotle)
6. Anonymous bullying, trolling can be very hurtful (various exchanges above)
7. Being connected to the right people trumping the quality of work (Andrew Smith) [I hope I extracted the right point you were trying to make with your reductio!]

I’d also like to point to the statements made by Cal Newport, a very successful academic in a different field, who is quite opposed to social media use even for professional purposes:
https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/jobs/quit-social-media-your-career-may-depend-on-it.htmlReport

Tim O'Keefe
Reply to  Phoenix, Son of Amyntor
2 years ago

I’d like to add to this list that there is some evidence that FB usage has a negative impact on well-being. Here is a summary of a recent study with links to other research:

https://hbr.org/2017/04/a-new-more-rigorous-study-confirms-the-more-you-use-facebook-the-worse-you-feel Report

Jonathan Reid Surovell
Reply to  Phoenix, Son of Amyntor
2 years ago

Two more:

8. Social media (in the sense of Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram) use reduces subjective well-being.
9. Social media use contributes to other users’ social media habits (i.e., automatic social media use) thereby harming them.

https://quillette.com/author/jonathan-reid-surovell/Report

Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith
Reply to  Phoenix, Son of Amyntor
2 years ago

I do have the worry you pointed out, Phoenix, though I confess I did not intend what I wrote as a reductio, but as a serious proposal (or set of proposals, or ideas for proposals) for reforming the field.

Another suggestion on this topic: if tenured faculty and The Right People are concerned with imbalances of power and stuff like that in the discipline, they can do a good amount to correct these imbalances by refusing to participate in these unfair power structures. In other words, they can just quit their jobs.Report

Jeff Y
Jeff Y
Reply to  Andrew Smith
2 years ago

How about:

10. Lost time crafting posts, obsessing over whether the posts are cogent, monitoring responses, etc.

Like right now I’m worried that this does not really count as an item on Phoenix’s list of “criticisms” and is actually more of a “downside” (though perhaps downsides and criticisms are the same, or at least entail one other), or that I might be restating something someone else has said. So I better read this thread carefully… oh yes, Justin makes an opportunity cost argument right at the top. So I guess I should add (Justin) to the end of my 10.

Anyway I’ll leave this here to amplify the point. This is all time I could have spent obsessing over some other writing or research related item on my todo list. This is probably a large part of why I avoid social media. I think I get more net utiles per minute doing writing and reading directly related to research than doing writing and reading related to blogs or social media posts. Perhaps if I were less obsessive and stopped worrying over every sentence, the calculus would change. But I suspect other philosophers are like me in some of these respects.

And so I suspect that for some of us, philosophical-obsessiveness + opportunity costs means that social media participation causes more “active harm” than social media avoidance.

All that qualified language and hedging and I’m still not sure this is error and typo free. Better read it again. Still not sure. More minutes being spent thinking about this. Maybe I’ll just hit cancel…. Well ok, I’ll post it… Report

Phoenix, Son of Amynto
Phoenix, Son of Amynto
Reply to  Phoenix, Son of Amyntor
2 years ago

All great additions. To Jeff Y.: I think you point to a solid criticism. There is a growing body of research in psychology to show that one common feature of both depression and anxiety is anxious rumination. I think social media nurtures such rumination and this is why we see such a strong correlation as cited by O’Keefe.Report

Treading Water
Treading Water
2 years ago

As a member of the precariously employed underclass of professional philosophy, reading Kukla’s post made me more anxious than ever about my social media engagement. On the one hand, I value being connected and keeping up with what the cool kids are talking about. On the other hand, I read something like this and feel like an extremely uncool, boring pleb who has probably already been algorithmically segregated from the cool kids:
“Most personal posts about cute things your kids said, your trip to visit your aunt in Missouri or your get-together with your high school friends, are boring to most people in your Facebook circle, who don’t know these people and have equally cute kids saying equally cute mundane kid things. If you don’t want to come off as boring, don’t dilute your social media presence with lots of such posts. Only post about personal events that are quirky, unusual, or momentous enough that someone with no knowledge of your family, high school, etc. may well be interested.”Report

Shane Wilkins
Shane Wilkins
Reply to  Treading Water
2 years ago

Maybe two accounts, a “personal” one where you put the pictures of your cat and children or whatever, and a “professional” one to impress the cool kids that you went white water rafting with Colin McGinn or whatever.

Actually, for $100, I’ll photoshop Colin McGinn’s face into the personal photos of anyone who reads this. Special deal, today only.Report

Phoenix, Son of Amyntor
Phoenix, Son of Amyntor
Reply to  Treading Water
2 years ago

Treading Water: I’m grateful to you for pointing out that particular paragraph from Kukla’s post and have been mulling it over since.. I think what is troubling about that particular paragraph is that it is (my words) recommending that we use Facebook to brand ourselves.
Although politically I’m very moderate, I’d love to see a Marxist tear ass through here about how pernicious it is to brand oneself.Report

Adam Omelianchuk
2 years ago

Ever since reading Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together I’ve been worried about the practice of “image management” inherent in social media platforms. The pressures and pitfalls surrounding the advice to “curate” (what a word!) an image for professional purposes seems like yet another good reason to get off it entirely. The general worry I have is over the distorting effects I either wittingly or unwittingly communicate to others (and are communicated to me), which I don’t believe serves human relationships very well (just my experience). That said, I do feel the need to “network” (another charming word), and some of the connections I make through Facebook are quite helpful. To use or not use social media is always a balancing question in my mind: do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks? I can never tell and I don’t think I’m alone in that uncertainty. Report

Elder
Elder
2 years ago

Part of what’s depressing about our teenage years, for many of us, is that we spend so much time trying to curate a particular image of ourselves. We obsess over what others think, how they’re seeing us, and how they perceive us, whether we’re part of the “in” group, whether certain labels fit us, etc. Part of what’s wonderful about adulthood, for many of us, is that we stop caring about this crap and just engage directly with others and with the world. I find Kukla’s advice nauseating. It reminds me of my status-obsessed teenage years and holds out the prospect of jobs, connections, invitations to those who are willing to revert to playing that game. No thanks.Report

Caligula's Goat
Caligula's Goat
Reply to  Elder
2 years ago

I’m really surprised at how much people are committing the genetic fallacy in this thread. Frankly, it reeks of immaturity to attack Kukla personally for expressing a position on the nature of social media and its role in our profession. She could be a hypocrite about this (she isn’t, but she could be) and yet STILL be right on the substance of what I take to be a descriptive claim on her part.

In my earlier post, I don’t take issue with the descriptive fact though I do lament it and I do think that we should do what we can to reduce the importance of F-book and Twitter in our professional lives (or even just ‘in our lives’).Report

Ken Taylor
2 years ago

Since the election of Donald Trump, I have used Facebook and other social media primarily to vent about American politics and, more recently, to try out brief ideas for a book I am toying with writing about the same. Though most of my venting is political, a small amount is philosophical. My strictly philosophical venting mostly consisting of jotting down a germ of a philosophical thought to get reactions from other philosophers. Such jottings mostly go unnoticed, but I have engaged in a few extended philosophical conversations over facebook as a result of a few of them. Some of them were quite interesting. In my forthcoming book, “Meaning Diminished: Toward Metaphysically Modest Semantics” I actually credit such a conversation with Mark Lance, Axel Meuller, Carl Sachs, Quayshawn Spencer, Michael Weisberg, Eric Winsberg, (some of whom I know well off of Facebook, others of whom I have never met in person and know only through Facebook) with “helping me to see that the Carnap of the deflationists neo-Carnapians may be a mere pseudo-Carnap (pun intended) and perhaps not the actual historical Carnap.” First time I have ever done that. But that is the exception rather than the rule.

I mostly avoid joining in on facebook “flame war” and “virtue signaling’ conversations — of which there are way too many.

More generally, If I were advising younger people on professional advancement, I would not at all say that it is important to have “a social media strategy.” Companies need a social media strategy. So do movie stars and other celebrities maybe (but many of them would be better off without the the social media strategy they actually seem to deploy).

But striving young scholars … not so much. The main difference between a company with a social media strategy and a young scholar trying to develop and deploy such a strategy is that the company has a bunch of people professionally devoted to and adept at that sort of thing who will relentlessly strategize about it, thoughtfully develop it, execute it, collect data about what works and doesn’t work, and so on. Individual scholars …. not so much. Many, many scholars are truly terrible at strategic self-presentation anyway, without being aware of how bad they are at it. Even those who flatter themselves that they are quite good at strategic self-presentation, who often tend to get positive strokes for their skills at it from their buds, come across to many others outside of their circle of like minded folks, as preening self-promoters, legends in their own minds, relentless virtue signalers more prone to self serving moral licensing than to true virtue. I could name names, but won’t.Report

JTD
JTD
Reply to  Ken Taylor
2 years ago

“Even those who flatter themselves that they are quite good at strategic self-presentation, who often tend to get positive strokes for their skills at it from their buds, come across to many others outside of their circle of like minded folks, as preening self-promoters, legends in their own minds, relentless virtue signalers more prone to self serving moral licensing than to true virtue. I could name names, but won’t.”

I wholeheartedly agree with Ken on this. Anecdotally, many times in private conversations among groups of philosophers I have seen specific individuals who fit Ken’s description named and criticized for their social media behavior (usually as an aside when their name has come up for other reasons). Therefore, the best advice may be that there are many pitfalls for those who attempt to cultivate a professionally advantageous social media profile and this includes a significant risk that they end up professionally worse off because of their efforts. Report

J. Khoo
J. Khoo
2 years ago

The claim of unfairness is a little odd.. Is it ‘unfair’ to be colleagues with an influential philosopher, or to befriend them in some other context? Its only as arbitrary as most networking is, and in this case (intuitively) arbitrary isn’t the same thing as unfair.Report

Tiresias
Tiresias
2 years ago

Lots of us see the professional philosophy Facebook crowd in our feed because we’re friends with some of the players, though we don’t participate ourselves. From the outside, it looks like tenured faculty holding court as desperate graduate students, adjuncts, perpetual VAPs, etc., grovel for favor.

It’s the faculty that really turn my stomach. They’ve convinced themselves that all this craven simpering is voluntary and genuine approval of their ideas (or, more often, for their children, pets, leisure activities)–even as they admit that licking up to people on social media is a good way for their professional subordinates to get invited to their conferences and edited journal issues.

There’s a wonderful scene in the Sopranos where Tony tells a joke in a poker game. His underlings laugh uproariously. They catch his eye to make sure he sees how much they like his joke. They compete to laugh longest and loudest. As he looks around the table, Tony realizes that he has no real friends–not even real colleagues. All his relationships are rooted in the promise of material reward and the threat of violence. The respect and admiration of his peers, which is the core of his identity, only reflects the power he holds over them. Do you think that 150 people you’ve met twice at the APA liked your status because they’re genuinely impressed by your latest marathon time? So how do you know they’re impressed by your latest article?Report

Colin McGinn
Colin McGinn
2 years ago

Corruption. Careerism. Cravenness. Report

jj
jj
2 years ago

I can say with as much as certainty as I ever could about anything that I have never improved my view of anybody because of their social media presence, professional or not. At best, my view of them did not change but if it did, always for the worse. There are many reasons for it, one could certainly write a lot about that. But the main point is, there is little to be gained, much to be lost.Report

Shane Wilkins
Shane Wilkins
2 years ago

I’m puzzled about why people aren’t mentioning the names of the authors of this supposedly bad presentation. First, it’s not like the information would be hard to find from the APA meeting program. Second, the whole point of presenting a paper is to put the ideas into a public forum for criticism!

Surely no one seriously thinks that if x gave a bad talk, therefore x is a bad philosopher. I’ve seen some really excellent philosophers (full prof, at top ten-ish departments) give really terrible talks. I heard a full prof from Oxford give an hour long talk that ended with, “Ah, yes, I guess that’s what the thesis of this paper was.” Sometimes bad talks happen to good people. Move past it.

More broadly, I worry the kind of delicacy towards “punching down” at grad students and job marketeers is only helping fuel a ‘culture of victimhood’ in philosophy, in the sense Campbell and Manning give, where a culture of victimhood is one in which, “individuals and groups display high sensitivity to slight, have a tendency to handle conflicts through complaints to third parties, and seek to cultivate an image of being victims who deserve assistance.”

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272408166_Microaggression_and_Moral_Cultures

The victimhood culture is a threat to the discipline because philosophy is an intrinsically eristic enterprise. Smash the idols of the tribe! Dare to know! Better Socrates alone against the world, than Thrasymachus surrounded by supportive allies! It is human nature for supplicants to fawn over their patrons and for the patrons to expect the fawning. But supplicants don’t make good philosophers, and patrons don’t make good mentors. If Rebecca Kukla and Mark Alfano don’t like your talk, punch back! *Or,* if RK and MA are right, concede the point. Either outcome strikes me as perfectly professional and philosophically productive.

What wouldn’t be productive is taking the matter to facebook to try to recruit allies who would talk about how bad Rebecca Kukla is for punching down a person on the job market. (*Note, there’s no reason to believe the authors of this presentation did this or that RK and MA’s comments above would constitute “punching down”; I’m just using this case as a hypothetical illustration of a bad behavior*) The question ought to be *how do I make the work better?* not *how do I keep people from saying the work is bad?*Report

nobody
nobody
Reply to  Shane Wilkins
2 years ago

Shane: please see my comment above. At least one person seems to have inferred from two people giving a (purportedly) bad talk, that they are bad (actually, not just bad, awful) philosophers with no talent: Rebecca Kukla. Perhaps she had more information about these two philosophers; but either way, it strikes me that there is some distance between semi-publicly saying that two junior philosophers–neither of whom has secure employment–gave a bad talk, and semi-publicly saying that they are awful philosophers with no talent. The latter strikes me as unethical, as outside the boundaries of what social media discourse that affects people’s professional lives allows, and as a kind of “punching down” that should be called out. The former strikes me as fine (though I think there are some vexed issues even there, given the particular case). I just wanted to chime in because actually agree with a lot of what you say above, and I am one of the people who posted above about this issue. Report

Shane Wilkins
Shane Wilkins
Reply to  nobody
2 years ago

Hi nobody,

I recognize what you’re saying and I agree with your concern. But, I did not read RK and MA’s remarks in this thread above as inferring that the two in question are per se bad philosophers from the (alleged) fact that they gave a bad talk. If RK and MA are making that inference, they surely are making a bad inference. But I don’t see them doing that here. (Perhaps they’ve said things elsewhere; I didn’t look.)

Report

nobody
nobody
Reply to  Shane Wilkins
2 years ago

Hi Shane,
Sorry for the miscommunication. I was referring to the original comments by RK on facebook. That was where she made the claims. (That the philosophers in question were terrible, awful philosophers with abhorrent views and no talent.) I intended my comments upthread to clarify what “Giving what you asked for” was saying. But I thought it was worth pointing out here because if I was reading you right, you were suggesting that no one (including RK) thought that if someone gave a bad talk, that made them a bad philosopher. On facebook she seemed to commit to this (unless she had more info about them as philosophers, which she well might have–still, it seemed pretty unprofessional/down-punchy to me). Report

Shane Wilkins
Shane Wilkins
Reply to  nobody
2 years ago

I don’t know I take much stock in what people commit themselves or seem to commit themselves to on the internet being what they actually believe. I’m not necessarily accusing them of bad faith, just noting people get carried away.

Here’s my argument:

(1) there is at least on proposition p, which I have vehemently asserted on the internet while angry which I do not endorse upon sober reflection.
(2) I am similar to other people in the frequency and severity of my bouts of anger in front of a computer.
(3) therefore other people probably also say stupid shit they don’t really mean on the internet.

But if (3) then it is plausible to conclude:

(4) not everything someone says on the internet, even if passionately, is what that person actually, seriously believes.

I know 1 by introspection, 2 by observation, and the rest looks like it follows.Report

Colin McGinn
Colin McGinn
2 years ago

Complacency. Credulity. Cupidity. Report

Colin McGinn
Colin McGinn
2 years ago

Conformity. Cruelty. Conspiracy. Report

Colin McGinn
Colin McGinn
2 years ago

I obey your command. Too cryptic? Crepuscular?Report

jj
jj
Reply to  Colin McGinn
2 years ago

Cringing, Crass & Creepy Crud, Crawling with Crepitus, only Cremated Crap. Report

M
M
Reply to  jj
2 years ago

Crunchy. Corny. Caramel.

(I like this game.)Report

Daniel Jacobson
2 years ago

It’s one thing to argue that a talk or paper was bad, another simply to insult its authors, and yet another to call them bad philosophers. Critical argument is what we do. But the insults and hyperbole first denied, then repeated on this thread are unprofessional. When the targets of these insults are giving their first large-venue lecture, defending an unpopular opinion to a hostile audience, such unprofessional behavior is especially shameful.

I was appalled at the treatment of Case and Joshi on social media — especially by Kukla and Alfono, who incited the social media dog pile, but also by others from whom I expected better. Both C&J are very promising young philosophers in a hostile environment where they really do run a professional risk for expressing unpopular views. This goes for Tosi and Warmke’s “Moral Grandstanding” paper too, btw, which was the target of a self-defeating post by the host of this site. (A book expanding on that excellent paper in P&PA is now under contract with OUP, btw.)

It’s almost enough to make me think there’s another explanation for the unprofessional nature of this criticism, which has nothing to do with the quality of the work. This alternative explanation might even support the conclusions of C&J’s talk and T&W’s paper. Wouldn’t that be ironic.

And @ Shane Wilkins: If you had read the comments under discussion, you’d see that your claim, “Surely no one seriously thinks that if x gave a bad talk, therefore x is a bad philosopher,” is manifestly false. Or else you have inadvertently accused some people on this thread of bad faith. Report

Shane Wilkins
Shane Wilkins
Reply to  Daniel Jacobson
2 years ago

Link? Or is it a Facebook thing? I’m not going to make a Facebook account.Report

Brea
Brea
2 years ago

I delete people who don’t care about my trips to Missouri. Report

William Knorpp
William Knorpp
2 years ago

One of the reasons I went into academia (in general, and philosophy in particular) was that it seemed to be a place where ideas like “curating a public identity for yourself” (though I’d never have thought of such a dispiriting phrase in a million years) would be considered unwelcome, to say the very least.Report