Don’t want to use Twitter? Please reconsider!

[Update: I’ve made you a list of must follow LIS types to follow on Twitter. There’s also a class list for you to follow. Tweet me so I can add you!]

I know some of you are a bit hesitant about joining Twitter, and others just don’t want to do it at all.

I’d really like to encourage you to put your reservations aside and give it a try.

Twitter is an invaluable tool for professional networking and professional development because there is an incredibly active community of librarians there. Twitter plays an incredibly important role in my professional development and in keeping me connected to the profession and to my peers.

In the video below (made for my Social Technologies undergraduate unit in Semester 1), I talk about my personal learning network, which really started out in Twitter and continues to be grounded primarily in the twitterverse.

You might also like to watch the second video in this series, where I outline five tips for building a personal learning network.

Twitter also brings a range of content that is useful to me across my radar every day.

Case in point: today, someone I follow (a former student, actually) tweeted a link to this article by a library school student about why he got into Twitter and how he did it:

Which reminds me of this quote I love from danah boyd from 2010. The article it comes from is a must read article on how information or content flows in social media – Streams of content, limited attention: the flow of information through social media – which was one of the very early inspirations for my PhD project.

If we consider what it means to be “in flow” in an information landscape defined by networked media, we will see where Web 2.0 is taking us. The goal is not to be a passive consumer of information or to simply tune in when the time is right, but rather to be attentive in a world where information is everywhere. To be peripherally aware of information as it flows by, grabbing it at the right moment when it is most relevant, valuable, entertaining, or insightful. To be living with, in, and around information. Most of that information is social information, but some of it is entertainment information or news information or productive information. (boyd, 2010, p. 28)

When you create an account in a space like Twitter and start to curate a list of people who have similar interests, you create a flow of information that is full of things that might interest you.

You can get value out of Twitter just by lurking, and lurking is a great way to start. But if you’re going to lurk, you should do it with an account. The point of Twitter is that you follow others. The value is in creating a follower list that surfaces content that’s useful to you.

Lurking (or even tweeting) with a safety net

If you’re nervous about using Twitter, there are things you can do to give yourself a bit of a safety net.

Use a pseudonym

Don’t want to use your name on Twitter? That’s fine! Use a pseudonym or a nickname. Just keep in mind that you might want to use this account in a professional capacity later, so don’t go for anything particularly unprofessional as a handle.

Pretend you’re someone else

There are certain situations I find really tricky. For example, I used to be petrified of public speaking. Petrified. I got myself through it by assuming an alter ego. When I was speaking somewhere, I was a different version of me. I would literally just tell myself that I wasn’t risking anything personally because I wasn’t being my just-plain-old-Kate self. It’s like performing a different identity. A former student did something similar: she used a photo of herself as a child as an avatar and chose to approach the challenge of getting immersed in social technology as her more confident childhood self might have done.

It might sound a bit silly, but I’ve found this can really help with managing situations you aren’t particularly comfortable with.

Make your account private

You can also create a private account if you like. My Twitter account was private for years (and I had a public one too that I used for work). That’s fine, but I’d like to encourage you to allow your peers to follow you, and you should note you won’t be able to participate in the Twitter chats properly with a private account as your tweets will only be available to people you’ve allowed to follow you.

Define your own boundaries

Worried about being followed by people you don’t know? It’s up to you to draw a line in the sand around what you will and won’t share publicly and to decide whether to link your Twitter profile to your ‘in real life’ (IRL) identity. If people you don’t know are following you, but you’re not sharing anything that you’re not comfortable sharing and your account isn’t linked to your IRL identity, maybe it’s not such a big deal. If particular followers are bothering you and you don’t want them following you or tweeting at you, you can block them.

In a nutshell…

You control your account, your identity, your practices, and whether your tweets are public or private.

So, will you give it a go?


  • Luke Mysliwy Reply

    Just started a twitter account for the first time (despite avoiding it since the day it began), this better be worth it! One thing of note, I was slightly surprised at the accuracy of the ‘people you may know’ suggestions it through up with the bare minimum of information (name and email address). Not sure whether to be impressed or alarmed by the amount that ‘the internet’ knows about me. One the plus side now I can finally contribute to QANDA when I’m watching.

    • Kate Davis Reply

      Haha to QANDA!

      Last semester, I had a guest lecture along to my Social Technologies class talking about using Twitter data to track outbreaks of the flu. It got me thinking a lot about privacy, and I think I subscribe to the idea that privacy is over rated. At least, I think my own privacy is. I’m pretty cautious with the kids’ privacy, but fairly ambivalent about my own. But every now and then, even I am thrown by the scary suggestions Facebook throws at me. It’s kind of like a puzzle, trying to figure out what data they used to get me those suggestions.

  • Rebecca Randall Reply

    Can I recommend some Twitter people to follow? I find Kim Tairi (@kimtairi) is a charming librarian from down south who always has fun things in her twitter feed, as well as live tweeting any conferences she attends. Trish Hepworth (@TrishHepworth) is very interesting if you’re interested in copyright issues. And of course, feel free to follow me! My handle is @rebeccasrandall if you want to keep tabs on what I’m up to!

    • Kate Davis Reply

      Great suggestions Rebecca. I’m also building a list of must-follow library and information types for you guys too. I used to have one on my old work Twitter account but it needs an update. I’ll add more to the list over the next couple of days.

  • Caitlin Rowe-Dawson Reply

    If you assume a pseudonym, as i am really not keen in building a twitter profile, is it still possible to participate in the class requirements for assessments? I have already commeted here, built a profile and introduced myself on Monday however today all of my log in details and profile seem to have disapeared and I needed to re register. Has there been a glitch or is it just me? 🙂

    • Kate Davis Reply

      Hi Caitlin

      You can definitely do everything you need to do with a pseudonym on Twitter. I’m not sure what happened with your registration. I can’t see an account in the database other than th one you created today.

      Please let me know if you have any further difficulties.


  • Caitlin Rowe-Dawson Reply

    There seems to be an anonymous introduction still not sure how I did that but I am sorted now.

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