How I fell in love–or at least like–with Twitter

I really enjoyed meeting everyone and all that I learned in my first day of the #doingdh2016 institute, and thanks to the NEH Office of Digital Humanities for funding this educational adventure.

Many folks are anxious about social media and putting themselves out there, so I’d like to share the story of my relationship, if I can call it that, with Twitter–in the hopes that it will help someone else. Here’s the story of how I went from a twitter novice to a twitter evangelist.

I joined twitter in July of 2010 just before my second trip to San Diego Comic-Con (#sdcc in twitter-speak). I created a handle based on my real name, but that wouldn’t look like anyone’s name–k10death. My married name is a gift that way. I didn’t connect anything else of my IRL self to twitter, and I used it for those few days to keep up with friends at #sdcc and to enter contests, none of which I won. I admit it was an added bonus that I’d heard the Library of Congress was going to archive All of The Tweets.

But at some point in the process, I connected with the patterns of twitter. I saw famous people conversing with “average folks.” I watched people who felt like outcasts in parts of their lives find connections with others. In the beginning, I followed only famous people and people I knew personally who went to con, but I quickly started also following sites for my academic and professional interests. Within weeks I found the #builtheritage monthly chat, then run by National Trust for Historic Preservation staffers. (or were they volunteers?)

Just over a year later I attended my third National Trust conference and my first ever tweetup in Buffalo, NY. We’d been talking about issues in preservation nearly every Wednesday for a year and I was finally able to meet some of them in person. Many of us still follow each other on Twitter–though that chat isn’t still regularly happening–and at least one of those folks has become a good friend. I was in a PhD program at the time, and, though my program had a good cohort, I cannot overestimate the value for me in connecting with folks who were asking the same sorts of questions. These folks pushed me to be a better scholar and a better citizen.

I learned about live tweeting and began practicing at conferences, including the National Council for Public History annual conferences. I learned from folks who’d been tweeting longer. I also just jumped in and was able to connect with folks who’s work I was studying in class.

As I went on the job market, I decided that it was time to shed my anonymity and add my real name to my twitter account. I was SO nervous about it–worrying that unseen employers would reject me due to hints of social, religious, or political leanings they thought they read in my tweets. In the end, I decided to use twitter as an asset, to connect it to my professional identity, because the folks I’d followed and conversed with through twitter had helped to shape that identity.

The ways I’ve used twitter have changed in the last 6 years. It began as primarily for side interests and grew into one of the main ways that I connected with others in my field. I used it for job hunting. Then, in my first year of teaching, I was so busy creating new classes and cramming for lectures that I lost touch with nearly everyone. Now that I have my own students, I’m finding a new voice.

This post has already grown longer than it should, so I’ll chose with one tip and two questions.

**Find a semi-regular chat and participate in it! Can’t find anything that seems relevant? Find a partner and start a chat!

What is the best value you’ve seen in Twitter? What worries you the most about using it?


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