Monday, September 12, 2011

What I Did During My Week Away From Twitter

by John T. Spencer

What did I do during my week away from Twitter?

Pretty much everything I do without Twitter, just with a little extra mind-wandering, more doodling and maybe a little less distraction.  I didn't write more, run more or watch a foreign movie.

What did I miss out on?

Not much.  I had the same types of conversations I have on Twitter, but I was limited by time and place.

What does this tell me?

That Twitter is an everyday part of life.  It's a place I like to be, but it isn't home.  It's a method of communicating, but it's nothing as vital to me as blogging.

What does this have to do with teaching?

Sometimes techies gush about social media as a transformative tool.  This week reminded me that it hasn't transformed much of my life, much less my approach to teaching.  It has, however, become normal -- and maybe the normalcy is precisely why it's powerful.  When the novelty fades and I find myself drawn toward it again, I am reminded that the place/tool of Twitter has a place in my world.


  1. Interesting perspective. I find that social media tools these days has actually taken a secondary place in my life, but I also see that it's opened my doors to things that I couldn't have access to otherwise, and people, for that matter. It's been vastly important for the things we're trying to do, but then I also like taking long walks in the neighborhood, eating ice cream, and window shopping. I'm not sure how much of an effect social media has on these aspects of my life, but whenever I get a chance to take a break from SM, these other experiences get enhanced.

    In other words, I'm somewhere in the middle

  2. Interesting post. I think, however, that perhaps it has already transformed you. Doesn't change turn to norm eventually?

    Also, do not forget its potential for a broader audience - who have you transformed?

    I can tell you honestly that your #edrethink tweets have given me much food for thought - some transformative.

    The beauty of Twitter and SM is it is more than a 1-way street. More than 2-way even. It's multi-way.

    My tweet stream is all the richer from reflective tweeps like you. I hope you don't stay away too often or for too long.

    I should add that I do not gush about social media; just presenting another perspective and in this context the actual players are important.

  3. I agree with all of you.

    Malyn has an excellent point about the wider audience. It would be hard to argue with the power that social media gives us to reach farther and learn more from new and different people. Your thoughts have inspired and transformed my teaching and without Twitter it would never have been possible.

    I also agree with the idea that the face to face connections are important. Having just finished the first week back to school I've had very little time for social media. It wasn't really a choice, but a temporary necessity. On the other hand, it did give me the opportunity to connect face to face with colleagues that I had not seen as much over the summer.

    Sometimes I wonder if I have time for those face to face conversations AND social media. But, really the answer is that I have to. They're both too important to what I do. It just becomes a challenge of balance.

  4. I tend to see Twitter as such a part of my routine -- along with the NY Times, my Flipboard zines (The Atlantic, The New Yorker, ProPublica, MindShift, The Onion), NPR on the radio, and checking RSS and email every morning -- that I couldn't really see myself "getting away" from it.

    I also see it as part of my routine not just in the sense of "getting news", but really seeing what sorts of things folks are thinking about and sharing ideas, reads, thoughts, complaints, worries, hopes. I've got my Hootsuite set up so I can quickly scan through the sorts of things going on in different parts of the Twitterverse; this often will lead to reading something I hadn't known about, having a conversation I hadn't expected, or learning something whether it's something relatively idle or something I wind up incorporating in my work. I can't tell you the number of time I moved forward in my work directly as a result of the connections that Twitter has provided. I see my PLN as an absolutely essential part of my professional tool kit.

    I also sort of see Twitter in the latter sense as a cafe where I can stop in, see what folks are thinking about, chat a bit, and split. In the way that the Twitter cafe represents both the world and our various sub-segments of it, I see it as something quite transformative -- for better or worse.

    Lastly, I see it as a place where given the historical circumstances, anyone -- regardless of class, race, religion, professional, even attitude -- can have an enormous impact. At the very least, it gives anyone cast with enough good fortune and timeliness the chance to be the voice that builds critical mass. And you never know when that's going to happen.

    My favorite thing about Twitter is the way it extends conversations I've had starting with posts on this blog and vice versa. It's an ongoing mindstream, and though I understand where you are coming from, for me it's been absolutely transformative in the fact that it has actually given me the opportunity to transform myself professionally. That may sound over the top, but it's what worked for me. Social media is not a monolith; to each his or her own.


  5. Dear Jose Vilson,
    I find that it's similar with me, too. I think it's the middle zone, the nuance, that makes it both exciting and confusing.

    Dear Malyn,
    Thanks for the kind words! I think the broader audience has been a powerful experience for me. It makes me feel a little less crazy. The strange part of the experience is that it feels so normal. Being off Twitter felt a little odd, but not earth-shattering. Being back feels normal.

    Dear Jeff,
    Thanks for the feedback. Your words have been very encouraging to me. I, too, have experienced some great insights that transformed my teaching. I like the sense of balance that you mention.

    Dear Shelly,
    On some level, it seems that you integrate Twitter into your everyday life in a way that's very different from me. It's cool to read your perspective. I think my point of it not being transformative is that it hasn't been any more or less transformative than all other social interactions I experience. The face-to-face ones have been the same way. There is as much ideological diversity in a school campus, a neighborhood or a party as there is on Twitter. We are much more diverse and much more alike as humans than we are led to believe.

  6. I think my experience has been somewhat different than yours. My twitter interactions have really reshaped my teaching and provided me with with perspectives vastly different from those I encountered daily. Twitter interactions have been very transformative (as have yours and others blogs - most of which I would never have found without Twitter). My professional world has been too homogenous and Twitter has been a nice counter to that. It has really challenged me in ways my face-to-face network never has. At times I still need to get away from it because I need time to sort, ponder, and process the messages and my own thinking. I also just need to be unplugged sometimes - to think less about what's "out there" and more about who and what is right in front of me.

  7. Remember McLuhan: "The Medium is the message."


    Postman: "The question is not, "what does technology do for me", but "what does technology do to me?""


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