PhD part-time; experiences of guilt and fear of social media

Guilt TripMy blog is an exercise in disciplinary reflection plus an increasing need to write things down less I forget. Which happens a lot. I blame the Phd. Poor thing – gets blamed for everything. I blog under no delusions of fame or fortune, believing most bloggers write or an audience of one – themselves. This weekend I read a paper by Liz Bennett and Sue Folley from the University of Huddersfield called A tale of two doctoral students: social media tools and hybridised identities

Excellent advice for aspiring doctorates (thanks Jim Rogers) is to visit EthOS to see what’s been written in your area. I found Learning from the early adopters: Web 2.0 tools, pedagogic practices and the development of the digital practitioner by Liz Bennett which was definitely my area, so I approached the paper with interest. I share a blogging habit with a PhD log page and social media is a component of TELEDA2 so I was grateful for the paper’s references. I also tweet  but am not good with hashtags. They feel like gatecrashing but #phdchat which sounds helpful. I might not be the only one struggling with guilt and fear!

The key message I took from this ‘insider’ account was using social media risks fear of exposure and loss of credibility but it was references to insecurity around academic identity which most intrigued me. I hung my ontological despair on the public blog line thinking it was safe. My epistemological challenges and PhD meltdowns were between me and the screen. I’ve had no problems laying bare my doctoral troubles – until today. I started to post a research paper and was overcome with doubt. I must have absorbed ‘experiencing social media as exacerbating [our] feelings of self-doubt, anxiety and exposure.’ (p6)  All I could think was what if it isn’t good enough?

I’ve  read scary accounts of PhD researchers becoming parents to their project, experiencing all the angst of letting go. It’s true. It happens! But what’s missing from the literature is the guilt of of carving out time to do PhD things like read, reflect, blog, write papers. There’s always a feeling I have to justify the time I spend on research activities during the working week. Like today. Blogging on a Monday?  My to-do list is next to me and Blog isn’t on it. Neither is write the paper in the first place. I have more affinity with Liz Bennett and Sue Foley’s account of doctoral studies and social media than I realised but not only fear – for me it’s more about feeling guilty. Blogging and promoting your research emphasises time away from the ‘day-job’. Despite the fact it enables me to be research-engaged and informed, I’m feeling guilty – like my research isn’t important enough to spend time on unless its evenings and weekends.

The Tale of Two Students paper also describes how social media can help overcome the isolation felt by PhD students. I wonder if this  is the same, better or worse for part-timers. Maybe somewhere on the internet there’s a support site for us. We’re the ones hanging on by a thread a la Berger and Luckman’s social construction of reality. One little snip and we all fall down.

This is my paper which is a culmination of my research so far. The asterisks denote reference checks required and the layout is preordained:  four pages including references with single line spacing in times new roman 11pt eteaching – a pedagogy of uncertainty and promise 

Phew – is it only Monday?

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 image ‘borrowed’ from http://michellesteinbeck.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Guilt-Trip-Sticker.jpg

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