By Kaitlin Koffer Miller 

I don’t want to say I was dragged kicking and screaming into joining Twitter. That would be a little too dramatic. But I was skeptical. I haven’t used social media personally in years and derived no joy from it. I had never been on Twitter and did not have a positive understanding of its function. What would I contribute? Isn’t Twitter just for talking figureheads or celebrities who want to share their opinions in 280 characters or less? But I did it. To support our Policy Impact Project. They (my teammates at @impact_policy, @annemroux and @kchvastaMSW) made me do it. 

Joining Twitter was terrifying at first. Should I use emojis? (Sure.) Should I use gifs? (Why not?) Won’t every tweet I share have the potential to go viral and be under the most heightened scrutiny of the entire internet universe? (Probably not…but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thoughtful!). I overthought every tweet I shared, taking far longer to construct those 280 characters than it would take me to write a paragraph of a discussion section of a manuscript.  

But that was before I met #AcademicTwitter – threads and topics that are tagged to topics academics might be interested in. And as the days, weeks, and months of being a Twitter user passed along, I found myself enjoying it more and more. Twitter gave me a place to share my own published work, work from my colleagues, and work from others in similar research and policy spaces. And, lo and behold, people were interested! 

My favorite, and most unanticipated part of Twitter, is what can be affectionately referred to as “lurking”. Simply scrolling through Twitter in the morning or on brain breaks during the workday has been an amazing entrée into what’s going on in research and policy. Other people out there ARE interested in the same geeky, wonky topics I’m interested in! I follow journals, governmental organizations, news organizations, advocates and advocacy groups, other researchers, and beyond. Being on Twitter has kept me abreast of articles, happenings in advocacy and policy, thoughts, and discourse that I was not privy to without more actively seeking this information.  

The ability to lurk is my biggest sell to my fellow Twitter skeptics out there. You can just read without actually Tweeting. Twitter provides access to the latest information, right at your fingertips and eyeballs. And with the click of the retweet button, you can share your findings with your colleagues and fellow Twitter academicians. And you don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to. Just share. 

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Admittedly, I am still figuring out exactly how I break into the space of Twitter to increase my visibility and ergo, accountability. The more active part of building relationships on Twitter can be intimidating, both in the amount of time commitment and the exposure. But as with anything, my friends, it’s about baby steps.  

Perhaps you don’t feel like you have the time to plunge headfirst into Twitter, tweeting your every academic and non-academic thought. But you can start small. Begin by following organizations and people who interest you and start sharing tweets you find compelling. Then, you may find something you want to comment on. This may lead to retweeting and adding your own spin or opinion (called “quoting”). And as you scroll and see what other researchers on Twitter are doing to share their work and ideas, perhaps you’ll find the space in your day to do the same. So, skeptics out there, if every journey begins with a single step, let your Twitter journey begin with a single lurk. 

And if nothing else, you’ll have a new place to share your Wordle successes and woes. 

Sincerely,  

@KHKofferMiller. Follow me.