The wonder of you, Twitter

Things  got away from me a little bit in the last week which was hectic to say the least. So, the greatly-imagined blog post I wanted to put up has not as yet materialised. I decided instead to write a brief, light-hearted one about just how great I think Twitter is.

Now, I’m sure for many of you who may be reading this, I’m preaching to the converted. However, I know that among certain of my friends, Twitter comes in for quite a bit of grief. Most of the complaints I hear involve something like ‘I just don’t get it’ and ‘It’s just a bunch of media idiots shouting about themselves’. So, I think my beloved ‘Twitterverse’ deserves a bit of appreciation and TLC from time to time.

It did take me a while to ‘get’ Twitter. I wasn’t sure who to ‘follow’ at first and wasn’t entirely sure why stalking had apparently become so popular. But once I decided to use it pretty much exclusively for work and found other people working in the same areas and with similar interests to me, I was quickly able to build up a network that provides me with an informative and stimulating set of tweets on my timeline whenever I go on.

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As I said, I do only use Twitter for work. As with Facebook, I believe you create the cyber world around you. So, for example, my husband’s Facebook and Twitter worlds look very different from mine. He is a drummer and uses both Facebook and Twitter for social and work purposes. This manifests itself in him having a lot of enviable posts and tweets from amazing drummers playing somewhere awesome and lots of close ups of drum kits (seriously, how many drum kits does one man need to see?!). Whereas, my Facebook is primarily social – lots of status updates about what people are having for breakfast – and my Twitter is work – in general this means academic questions and articles and socio-political information about Roma affairs and migration.

However, the bare information traffic that passes through my timeline is only the start. The thing that I have really come to appreciate is the support and real sense of community that I find on Twitter. I am studying for my PhD in relative isolation. I’m the only sociolinguist at my uni and, being in my writing up year, I don’t always get out of the house as much as I should. Through Twitter, I am able to contact and have conversations with people involved in my field from all around the world. There is no way that I could have chatted so regularly and informally and on so many topics with these people without Twitter. Email just wouldn’t be the same.

I haven’t met most of my ‘Tweeps’ face-to-face, but still the support is there. If someone needs a research paper, there’s sure to be another person on there who can send it to them, and when we’re having PhD related crises, there are people out there who can understand and help (I adore my husband and he supports me greatly, but there are some things you just don’t get unless you’ve been through it yourself!). We can have a joke, and some people have even set up their own long-distance film nights!

So, to all those Twitter doubters out there, if any of you are reading this: firstly, there is no right or wrong way to use it, but if it helps, decide what purpose you want to use Twitter for and build your Twitterverse around that; go on regularly and contribute; show your own personality; and most of all have fun with it. My last word, in a very uncool, hip-hop stylie, goes out to all my Tweeps. Thanks for your ongoing support, entertainment, and advice (not necessarily in that order).

I jog therefore I sleep

Image from Nathan Rupert

Image from Nathan Rupert

I recently watched a fantastic speech that Tim Minchin made at a graduation ceremony. If you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth a look. In the speech, he gives some excellent advice, and one suggestion was to ‘run, my beautiful intellectuals, run’.

I know already from twitter that a lot of my fellow linguists gain benefits from regular exercise, and it’s no secret that it can lower the risk of some chronic diseases, cancers, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. Regular exercise can also boost self-esteem, mood, energy and sleep quality, and reduce stress and depression.

So, after having a short period when I wasn’t sleeping well at night, I asked myself: why aren’t I doing some exercise?!

I’m now coming into the writing up year of my PhD, and things feel very different from my past nearly 5 years studying (2 years part time for my Masters and now nearly 3 years of PhD). While I did my Masters, I taught at an English language school. For the first three years of my PhD, as a Graduate Teaching Assistant, I taught at university. As well as teaching and lesson planning, my days were kept busy with fieldwork and the usual meetings, supervisions, seminars, library visits etc. However, this year, I’m not teaching and I’ve finished my fieldwork. I’m working from home with only my lovely dog, Lola, for company in the daytime. It’s a much more sedentary and solitary life than what I’m used to.

Basically, I need to get out more.

So, just under two weeks ago I started running (again), and I have to admit I really feel it’s making a difference. So far, I’ve been sleeping much better, I’m feeling much more focused and able to concentrate on my work, and I feel determined each day to complete my tasks. I even started this blog for goodness sake!

It’s early days, I know. It’s now October and here in Manchester, the days are getting shorter, greyer, colder, and wetter, so it’s not always going to be easy. I just hope I can keep motivated and continue to see the benefits.