There are many people in this world I would like to interact with. At different times and in different contexts, I want to interact with different people; but how to find the ‘right’ people at the ‘right’ time for my purposes? This post reflects on three networking sites – Facebook, LinkedIn and Academia.edu – and how the views they offer differ. It’s like looking out (or looking in?) from the different windows of a building. Sometimes there is overlap in the views, and sometimes they are so different that you wonder if you are still in the same location.

Facebook I use for personal contacts. I have decided that this is one small way of separating personal and public, private and professional. It’s not totally separate, because along with the myriad of family and friend ‘friends’, there are Playcentre contacts (some personal friends, some more work colleagues), there are pages I get information from to inform my professional roles (e.g National Council of Women NZ, educational sites), and other colleagues where the line between ‘friend’ and ‘professional contact’ is blurred. None of this worries me. I don’t like strict demarcation. I just want to save my professional colleagues from photos of my children’s antics and the in-house family jokes.

LinkedIn was a site I was badgered to join a while ago. I let it lie quiescent. Then, thanks to 23 Things for Research, it occurred to me that it could be a useful tool for creating an online academic presence. Lately I’ve been Linking up, left right and centre; I’ve put more on my profile; and I’ve even joined discussion groups (one day I might even leave a comment). I hate the endorsement idea with a passion, and agree with the sentiments expressed by John Naughton.

Academia.edu is new to me, and the issues around copyright make me a little cautious about uploading actual pdfs to the site. I found Michael Clarke’s article on this topic useful (http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2013/12/11/has-elsevier-signaled-a-new-era-for-academia-edu-and-other-professional-networks/). I think this is a site that I am not going to rush into, and I am also currently pondering how it can be used differently to LinkedIn. One exercise I did this week was to go through my LinkedIn contacts and see who was also on Academia.edu. I found that more of my contacts use LinkedIn than Academia.edu, and the ones that did use both tended to be the more social-media savvy people. I looked for a few other people on Academic.edu but found no-one I knew that wasn’t also on LinkedIn. In my current circle of academic contacts, therefore, LinkedIn is the more useful. However, neither of them is useful for contacting my non-social-media academic contacts, of which there are many. It reminds me of the situation I found myself in the mid-90s, when I had obtained my first email account and was eager to use it – but had no-one to email with. Two decades later, that situation has changed, and email is now an everyday affair with just about everyone I know (except my father-in-law). How long will I have to wait to before it is a generally accepted part of academia to belong to a number of these social media networks? Perhaps I have a role in persuading/helping others to join in the conversation – but always remembering that the ‘others’ are people with their own strengths, feelings and interests. Just because I want to connect with them through the computer, doesn’t mean that they want the same. Piaget says we grow out of egocentrism, always thinking of things from our own perspective. I’m not so sure.

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