For five years, I’ve had two Twitter accounts: one private account (@katiedavis) that I have used to tweet about both my personal and professional lives, and one public account (@katiedatwork) that I use pretty much exclusively for work (and the occasional rant about about poor customer service).
When I first signed up for Twitter, I made my account private because I wanted to know who was following me and I was a bit hesitant about this brave new world, where people were living out their lives so publicly, one coffee tweet at a time. Because I wore my heart on my Twitter sleeve, it was important to me that I connected with individuals, that I knew who was seeing my content in their feed. My content has often been intensely personal. I have tweeted extensively about people in my life, including my family, as well as big life events and their impact. I tweeted as I waited anxiously in the hospital foyer the day my niece and nephew came into the world, and I have continued to tweet about them ever since. My Twitter archive is like a baby book, full of milestones, tales of our adventures, and all the ridiculously amusing things they have said. I tweeted about house hunting and buying and renovating my first house. I tweeted about grief. I tweeted about my parents’ divorce. I tweeted from friends’ weddings. I tweeted my way through the last five years, reflecting on my life, sense making my experiences, recounting stories, and developing friendships. My private Twitter account has been my lifestream, a mish mash of personal and professional content, and increasingly, reflecting the fluidity of my personal boundaries between work and life.
After a year or so of tweeting, I decided I needed a second identity. I created a separate public account I could use to interact with my students and to tweet about events or professional topics. I had a personal policy of not allowing students to follow my private account (ridiculous idea, by the way) and I wasn’t keen on interacting with organisations using my private account. My private account was was like my lounge room, where I vegged out in my PJs, and I wanted to know who was hanging out with me. It didn’t take me long to realise I don’t actually mind having my students follow my private account, and in fact, that it could help with building rapport. I think it’s important for students to understand that we are people first and academics second.
Increasingly, having a private account has frustrated me. It stops me from participating in conversations. It means I have used my ‘work’ account to tweet about things that I would have preferred to tweet about from my other account. It is annoying to explain. It is frustrating to maintain. It has fragmented my online identity.
So I have been thinking for some time about killing off my public account and making my private account public. But it’s not really as simple as going public, because the internet has a long memory. Even if I change my tweeting practices, pull back on the personal content, add a layer of ambiguity to my tweets about the kids in particular, I still have an enormous archive of very personal Twitter content following me around. I am personally unfazed by this because I don’t tweet stuff that I wouldn’t just come out and say. But I am conscious that I’ve contributed to other people’s online identities by interacting with them or tweeting about them and that has made me cautious about making my account public.
Last week, inspired by Kim, I started deleting tweets (after I downloaded my archive, of course). Twitter only allows you to access the 3200 most recent tweets you’ve made. So I started working backwards, deleting 3200 tweets at a time using a couple of different apps. I managed to delete about 12,000 and that’s the extent of my visible tweeting history. I think.
So now I’m just katiedavis. And I like it.