I’ve changed, somewhat, who I follow on social media, specifically Twitter. I’ve come to the acknowledgment of myself that I follow too many partisans and what I’d like to use Twitter for is to actually learn something that may be beneficial. I like to learn, to have to actually think about a topic I may never have considered before, instead of blindly accepting a view that I had always accepted as true, to have another person, someone that has an expertise in whatever field, challenge me to consider a different point of view that’s based on facts, determined by research in that same field.
I don’t nominally accept that just because someone has an advanced degree and has been peer reviewed and published that whatever the substance is, is necessarily something i may agree with. There are lots of reviewed pieces in uncountable journals in various fields of expertise, some by very eminent scholars. That doesn’t automatically mean that that person has the final say, but it does, in my mind, mean that maybe there’s something there worthy of consideration. More and more of these, it seems to me, are on social media. Why? I think it’s simply that they’re able to reach more people that may be interested in what they do. Think about it: Most of us always complain about those “Ivory Tower” academics that don’t seem to have a connection to make their case to the average person. Social media, tears down that tower, and any walls that may be perceived to exist between academia and we average people that may have an actual interest in the research they are performing without the filter of “science journalists” who, in my opinion, mostly have no idea as to what the specific scientist is discussing, much less be able to spell “scientist” without having to look it up.
Most of these tweet about a topic because they desire not only their peers to become engaged, but others as well. Sometimes it’s amazing how patient they are; I can ask the most inane question (to them) or state something in opposition to what is being proposed, and the response I generally receive is takes the subject down a notch or two because not everyone reading is going to be a Subject Matter Expert and in order to have those of us not SME’s to understand what’s being discussed, take a moment to simplify their argument for us. Of course, patience only runs so long and if there’s someone that will not attempt to understand the the argument or even the premise, it’s not unusual to ignore that other. We all do that, by the way.
I’m going to start using social media for just that: Talk to “smart folks” in areas where my knowledge is incomplete in order to understand subjects I have a deficiency. That doesn’t mean I’m going to unfollow everyone else, but I think it’s time for all of us to look at who we follow, for what reason, and decide whether that follow actually engages us beyond those biases we already have.