While scholarly chat and self-promotion abounds, Twitter also acts as a virtual water cooler, a place where academics go to build community, have some fun, and let off steam.
A short year has passed since I first delved into Twitter, using the handle @AcademiaObscura to explore the lighter side of higher education. It has been a lot of fun, and I shall no doubt be devoting a chapter to the joys, and oddities, of the academic Twittersphere in the Academia Obscura book (crowdfunding now!).
Hashtags, used to collate tweets on a particular subject, are great for community building, with regulars such as #PhDchat, #AcWri and #ScholarSunday providing opportunities for academics to interact with and learn from each other. Others, such as #AcademicsWithCats and #AcademicsWithBeer, are a little more light-hearted, building communities around extra-curricular interests.
The recently coined #AcaDowntime is encouraging academics to take time away from work, and a quick skim through reveals that we are an active bunch.
Particularly amusing (and distracting) are hashtag games, whereby people offer up their best humour in response to a challenge posed in a hashtag. #RuinADateWithAnAcademicInFiveWords, #AcademicForecast, and #ScienceAMovieQuote are among my favourites.
A handful of excellent accounts dedicated to dishing out academic humour have become staples of the academic Twittersphere.
Shit Academics Say, an account making pithy remarks about academic life, garnered more than 100,000 followers before its author, Nathan Hall, decided to take a well-earned sabbatical. Nein Quarterly, a decidedly hard-to-pigeon-hole mixture of snark, sarcasm, and philosophy, has become (in)famous for its short and sharp quips on everything from current affairs to language. Its author, Eric Jarosinski, was formerly a professor of German at an Ivy League university, but is now dedicated full time to the project.