I dislike pretentiousness. Which is a difficult dislike to have when you’re a graduate student, because let’s face it: the academic world is rife with it. Or…it has a reputation for being rife with it. To be honest, I’m not quite sure which of those statements is fact anymore. Are there pretentious people in academia? Heck yeah. But are they the norm, or the exception?
I feel like my uncertainty about this has a lot to do with the increased presence of professors on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Thanks to Twitter, I now know that Clay Spinuzzi takes the bus to campus, Bill Hart-Davidson is a cyclist, and Quinn Warnick catalogs his Clif bars. Somehow, knowing these small extra details about academics makes them seem a little less Ivory-Tower-y. Somehow, this digital space that we each can only access from one side of a screen tears down walls. Does that even make sense?
Now, I’m not saying that these media spaces are the only things doing this. Just this past weekend, we had an Undergraduate Research Writing Symposium here at Tech, and Dr. Carter-Tod (who organized it) stated that she brought in the three guest speakers because they are “accessible” and generous with their scholarship and time. Only one of the three has an active Twitter presence, so I don’t think that’s what did it for them. They are simply hospitable scholars – and many, many of them exist in the discipline of Rhetoric and Writing. (Hooray!) But not everyone is good at showing the rest of the world that they are ready and willing to lend an ear – even if they truly are. And unfortunately, legends of snobby scholars and “I had a bad experience” stories from students often keep students from feeling like they have the “right” to approach other scholars – unless specifically granted permission to speak.
So I guess what I’m trying to say in my rambly-roundabout way is that social media applications have aided in tearing down walls – whether they be real or just perceived. And though I’m still undecided on how I feel about keeping up with all of this digital stuff, I do know for sure that I at least appreciate Twitter for helping to virtually knock down some walls.
p.s. This post sounded much better when I wrote it in my head while walking to the bus today. Isn’t there some sort of technology that can help me with that?