#TwitterLaw IRL @ #AALS2020

Academic Twitter is not real life


I have been quite critical of how academics tweet. Reactions to my post on social media were savage. Indeed, academics routinely assail my work on Twitter. Readers of this blog may assume that this sort of hostility bleeds into real life (IRL, if you will). Thankfully, it doesn't.

Last weekend I attended the annual conference for the Association for American Law Schools. Law professors from every law school attend. I was happy to catch up with many friends. I also visited with many professors who have been extremely critical of my work on social media, and in the blogosphere. And those interactions were always cordial and friendly. None of us brought up our Twitter tiffs.

As a general matter, academics are well equipped to compartmentalize disagreements, and find common ground during common times.

Do not take social media snips as an indication of how academics interact in the real world.

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  1. Um…. all right then, now I have Just began following your interesting USSC notes here. It’s highly educational and historically based…Can’t see how these would ever be construed as worth anyone’s time to snark at on social media. For context, would you Care to post an example of one of your tweets that drew such attacks in response that isn’t manifesting IRL? Thanks.

  2. Twitter sucks. It brings out the worst in everyone. Some people think it’s a good platform for publicity and reaching a wider audience, but 99% of the users have nothing to offer and just try to shoot down just about anything with enough snark they think will get themselves attention.

    It’s ok for watching embedded game highlights. That’s it.

    1. +1000

      Would add that it reduces everything there to a statement of 280 characters or less. Turns the whole world into a kindergarten sand box.

      1. I am going to say something elitist. But the major problem with online discourse is that without real moderation and real ground rules, discourse sucks.

        And the reason it sucks is that lots of people have absolutely zero interest in debating ideas and especially not in learning new things. Rather, they care more about things like virtue signaling, group solidarity, silencing people through pile-ons, and snark and insults. Which are just poisonous for debates.

        There’s a reason traditional newspapers, academic journals, the PBS NewsHour, and other traditional fora for debate are not full of all this stuff. And that is that elites have set up those fora and moderate them to make sure that actual debate happens and this other garbage doesn’t happen.

        But it isn’t in any way limited to Twitter. All online fora where there is little moderation end up the same way.

        1. Yet somehow Volokh’s comments over the years are of far greater quality than Twitter, I think mainly because the audience is so small. And of course it’s not as good as it was in the days of Volokh.com before all the WaPo and Reason asshats joined in. But it is still many levels above Twitter, without elites curating the discussion.

          On Twitter the Blue Checks are all right down in the mid with everyone else.

        2. This is why I love anonymity online. You can’t virtue signal or be part of a group when you’re anonymous. For all you know, you’re the same person trolling or gaslighting. It forces you to stop thinking about why someone said something and start thinking about what it actually means.

          Reason, VC, and forums in general would greatly benefit from embracing anonymity. All the sockpuppet accounts would be meaningless. You might think you’re above it, but we all bias ourselves based on previous interactions with one another. It’s not a good thing that you can point to someone else’s past statements and say “you said x.” Anonymity lets people explore new ideas, to be wrong and to learn, and most important of all, signals a voluntary commitment to eliminate biases where possible. It’s a lot easier to be principled about objectivity and truth when everyone chooses to pursue it implicitly.

          1. Anonymity definitely has its place.

            A couple of points of Ancient Volokh.com history are illustrative.
            Jonathon Adler used to blog under a pseudonym maybe around 2003-5 as Juan Non-Volokh, before he got tenure because he worried that his completely sensible middle of the road views would be disqualifying in some institutions, and of course he was right. At one time Brian Leiter got in a tizzy and tried to out him, and some other asshat at US Berkley too.

            Then there was the time Orin Kerr missed out on some gig or symposium, because someone on the selection committee got him confused with a anon anonymous commentor named “Oren”. Obviously they needed Orin more than he needed them, but it probably stung at the time.

          2. Counter-evidence: 4Chan and 8Chan.

  3. Academics, like most people, will smile to your face and later stab you in the back. However, the way academia is run, it give them more opportunity to draw and raise that dagger.

  4. They won’t say it to your face, eh?

    “Academic Twitter is not real life”

    For that matter, academic real life is not real life.

    1. What is “real life” anyway?

      1. Is this real life? Is this just fantasy?

  5. Twitter beefs are petty because the stakes are so low.

  6. Twitter is for twits.
    Social media is neither.

  7. Are you confusing professional politeness with friendliness? Just ’cause someone doesn’t call you a [insert appropriately vile insult here] to your face doesn’t mean they actually like you.

    1. I means they like you enough not to call you a [insert appropriately vile insult here] to your face.
      Well, either that, or they’d like to call you a [insert appropriately vile insult here] to your face, but they are in fact too cowardly to do so. So that’s about a 50/50 chance they like you at least a tiny little bit.

  8. This post recalls to me the novel “The Masters” by C. P. Snow. It’s not about golf, but about the internal jostling for power by faculty members of a Cambridge college in the late 1930s. Everyone is polite to your face while holding a concealed dagger.

  9. Mr. Blackman et al. An insult is only insulting if delivered to your face? I can be accused of being racist on line and that is not insulting? You live in a different world that I do, pal.

    1. Let’s test your premise.

      I accuse you of being racist on line.


  10. Cordial to each other? Of course.

    You’re all in an ivory tower. You never meet people who are actually hurt by the ideas you tweet about.

    In fact the more you fight online, the more you gain professional notoriety. It sells more books and opens up more employment possibiiities.

  11. Twitter is the real world.

    The words typed are real words. The bits transmitted are real bits. The light patterns (containing text and images) that emanate from a computer screen due to the content of a particular texts consist of real light. The emotions people feel when reading Tweets are real emotions. The thoughts they think as a result of reading the Tweets are real thoughts.

    The idea that social media “isn’t the real world” is foolish. As litigants who find their social media posts being used against them in court find out.

    It is true that people are more inhibited in their interactions when meeting and interacting with someone in person. But, it might be that the in-person meeting is the “less real” (if anything is less real) for that reason.

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