TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Muller: The Rise And Fall Of My Use Of Twitter

TwitterFollowing up on Friday's post, Law Profs: Beware The Perils Of Twitter:  Derek Muller (Pepperdine), The Rise and Fall of My Use of Twitter:

I have found that the reward from "status" on Twitter is simply not great. For journalism, it remains, sadly, nearly ubiquitous. A majority of media inquiries now start from a tweet; indeed, a non-trivial number of media mentions fail to even inquire of me and simply (lazily) cite my tweet. Using Twitter less means fewer citations in journalists' pieces, but such is the tradeoff. Furthermore, I've found that a lot of media now focuses on what people say on Twitter, and then how others react to those statements on Twitter—a deeply meta, and often, I think, deeply superficial way of thinking about newsworthiness.

Furthermore, I've watched a number of law professors (and others) lose a significant amount of their credibility (in my eyes, at least, and I think, to some degree, in the eyes of at least some others) by succumbing to the allure of fleeting social media fame. It moves beyond branding into a quasi-celebrity status. It's something that I want to separate myself from. ...

The good of Twitter, I've found, has increasingly become banal as a form of escape. The pleasant or non-controversial sides of Twitter feel increasingly vacuous (or, at least, I've grown quite aware that they are so). Pleasant people exchanging superficial and trite hashtag greetings and emojis have left me wanting.

And perhaps most of all, I found visiting Twitter a joyless, even painful, experience. It was a chore, or a necessity, not a pleasant way of learning about the news. If it's not the banal, it's the stranger shouting angrily, or the self-laudatory sarcastic point that demolishes or obliterates or decimates one's (usually political) enemies. I found my blood pressure too quickly and easily rise. I found myself defensive, typing out a hasty or angry or sarcastic response, only to delete it. (Occasionally it escaped my self-editing, to my detriment, I think.) ...

I've chopped probably 90% of my Twitter use this year already. I hope to cut it even further. I will still use it, of course, just less frequently. I'll tweet rarely, but I'll do so to, say, share this blog's content.

This is not to say that others have not calculated the cost-benefit differently, and that others might not do much better. Others have thrived on Twitter, and I've come to deeply respect (in some ways, more deeply respect) the work of many because of Twitter. That's a cost, and a loss for me. ...

I hope to keep away from the tyranny of the urgent for a little while.

Josh Blackman (South Texas), My Rules for Twitter:

Last week, I spoke with Karen Sloan of the National Law Journal about norms for law professors on Twitter. The piece was occasioned, in part, by Carrisa Byne Hessick’s new essay, Towards a Series of Academic Norms for #Lawprof Twitter. During the interview, I made clear that I was not lecturing others on how they should behave on Twitter. As a matter of academic freedom–to say nothing about my personal commitment to libertarian principles of free speech–it is not my place to judge how other scholars communicate their ideas.

Rather, as I told Sloan, my comments were premised on how I manage my own Twitter account. This post will articulate some of those principles. At the outset, I stress that I am far from perfect or consistent. I’m sure that by scrolling through ~50,000 tweets, an enterprising sleuth could find some tweets where I contradict the rules in this post. Guilty as charged. Indeed, my approach to Twitter has evolved over the years, as has the academic climate in general. My hope is that as time progresses, I can hew closer to these principles. Indeed, by laying down these markers, I can now better self-regulate my own social media. And to reiterate an important point, I am not lecturing others of how to manage their online presences. I only speak for myself.

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