It’s been a while since I posted here; my two jobs have kept me busy (this semester I’m adjuncting at Berkeley on top of my full-time Hastings position,) as have my family and my athletic pursuits. I successfully completed the Oakland Marathon (see my proud photo with the medal!), am training for several big events this year including the Tiberias Marathon, and we found a wonderful school for our son. I’ve also written three pieces (a book chapter about the persecution of animal rights activists and two papers based on chapters 6 and 7 of Fester) and am working on the fourth (a comparative analysis of approaches to intra-racial crime in Israel and the U.S. through the lens of American Political Development.) All of this means that I’ve had far less patience and forbearance for the vicissitudes of social media.

We’re being encouraged to “engage,” “interact,” and be “relevant” to public discourse through these channels, but this morning I spent some time rethinking the role that my so-called “engagement” has been playing in my personal and professional life. I kept saying that twitter was useful to me in that it put me in touch with very dear people who had important information on COVID in prisons and jails, but now that the fieldwork for Fester is largely finished, I can always contact these good folks via email. I also kept saying that, when I’d retire, as a gift to myself, I’d quit twitter. Why wait?

I know that, for many colleagues, twitter can be invigorating, validating, and community generating, but it has not played that role in my life. What I get from the platform is, largely, annoyances, as well as a strange compulsion to explain myself to complete strangers. I feel manipulated by the outrage machine, and there’s a constant sense that there’s a way to really proliferate and enjoy oneself there and I just didn’t get the memo. I also find that the erosion of free speech and civil discourse, which I have valued about my job in the past, are worse on these platforms–it’s a magnified version of the discontents of my in-person job. Rarely have I come across anything original or interesting there, and I can’t think of a single situation in which an idea I saw there contributed to my work. Perhaps some opportunities have come my way via social media, but many more have come through traditional reputational channels. In sum, the net effect on my professional and personal quality of life has been negative, so, why do it?

In any case, I think I’ll come back to writing some longer pieces here more frequently. Blogging has consistently been a good way to generate and develop ideas that later find their way into my articles and books (this is especially true about Cheap on Crime and Fester.) If you’d like to engage, you’re welcome to read here, as I’ll be spending less (possible no) time elsewhere.

If you are an academic who has made a success of their career with little to no social media presence, I would love to hear from you. That is what I want for myself and I’m looking for role models.

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