by Sarah Ball
I, as a millennial, as an almost-20-year-old, as a person whose phone is more of a lifeline than anything else, am a fan of social media. I love it. Don’t get me wrong, however, because I haven’t let it control my life. I didn’t get Facebook until I was 13 and I didn’t get Twitter until much later. Yes, I now have two Twitter accounts, but they often go unused when my life gets busy (which is always is thanks to university). That said, I still love it. I adore the idea of social media, of being able to connect with people you know – and people you don’t know – in a matter of seconds. No longer do we have to wait for a letter to make it across the world, we can have a live chat with our friends in China (or England or small town Indiana) at 2am if we so choose. The possibilities are endless with social media.
But social media is being more than simply a social platform for connecting with and making friends. As a cultural phenomenon, it is being used for anything and everything. And this includes the emergence of a new scholarly academic community.
Social media is a phenomenon, one that is sweeping first world countries at a rapid pace. These days, ten year old children have Facebook and Twitter and, therefore, they have access to text upon text, document upon document, resource upon resource. No longer must we get out of bed, get dressed, make our way to a library, and then search the system and the building for the one book we need. Instead, with the emergence of the Internet and social media, we can simply Google it. It is that easy. Social media and all its technology makes things “immediately available, encouraging use of the resources by the reader in a seamless fashion”
Furthermore, the rise of social media has led to scholarly texts having a “social extension” that must now be researched and investigated. Anything can be transcribed into tweets or status updates; famous old novels can be transformed into an interactive vlog on YouTube. The social extension of literary and analytical resources really is something to marvel at.
I think that is really cool. I really do because there are so many people with so many reasons why it is hard for them to make it to a library to do that research paper that has been assigned to them: physical disabilities, illness, injuries, mental health issues, etc. etc. etc. Now, if you can’t make it to the library, that’s okay! You can still do your assignment.
I write this blog post as I listen to songs from the Hamilton soundtrack (my current obsession) and I think about how much of an impact social media had on my decision to listen to it in the first place. Throughout the soundtrack, there are themes and ideas that are often repeated; one of them – the one I keep coming back to as I think about this topic – is the idea of realizing and remembering “how lucky we are to be alive right now.”
We are the lucky ones to be able to access millions of texts in a matter of seconds, right? That’s what they tell us – what the Siemens, Timney, Leitch, Koolen, and Garnett tell us. But maybe there is still so much more to research than this. But maybe they’re wrong. Maybe there’s more to research than access. And that’s not to say we should dislike or eliminate easy access, but if it’s possible, maybe it’s better to go to a library and get the book yourself.
I will admit to skipping the books and using the Internet as much as the next person. And as much as I agree with the importance of social media and the impact it is having on research, and as cool as it all may seem, there’s something to going to the library and finding that book you want and holding it in your hands. And perhaps the love of holding a book comes from my years upon years of being a book lover – and perhaps it has only been reinforced from my time working at a bookstore – but it’s still a magical feeling to me.
Those few times I do get out of bed and make my way to the library, those few times where I spend the time searching for the physical book in the stacks and stacks of them, those are the times I enjoy my research more. I put more work and thought into it – I am involved and dedicated because physical effort was involved in writing that essay.