finding the time to blog

How do you get time to blog and tweet? This is a question I get asked a lot, as I’m sure other academic bloggers do too.

The question is often accompanied by some kind of unspoken criticism. It’s as if by finding time to blog, I’m somehow suggesting that everyone else is deficient for not doing so. Or, as if in blogging I’m somehow trying to be trendy, or that I clearly have too much time on my hands and that must be because I don’t have a real workload. Or that I just like time-wasting… etcetera etcetera etcetera.

I’ve not got much energy for pursuing these kinds of concerns, but I do think the question of time is interesting. Clearly, in deciding to blog, I’ve also decided NOT to do other things.

In my case, I’ve given up buying and reading the newspapers everyday, now just a weekend habit. These days I rely much more on twitter, online columns and scanning the headlines on the BBC website every morning. I’ve also stopped randomly playing around with the web to see what I can see, and now rely on RSS feeds, twitter and facebook to do that for me. @ThesisWhisperer tells me that she is now very ruthless with email and gets through it much more quickly than she used to, and she too has largely given up newspapers. I’m trying to get on top of email too.

There are other places where I could save time. I still watch rather a lot of tele, and I read a lot of fiction. I could give those up but I don’t want to. They take me away from work in particular ways that reading the news doesn’t.

I may have found the time to blog by changing my own use of what Clay Shirky (2012) calls ‘social surplus’, the time we have when we’re not doing paid work, our so-called leisure-time*.

Shirky argues that, on a broad social level, people devote large amounts of time to engaging with media. In the twentieth century much of this ‘leisure time’ was, he says, taken up with consuming pre-packaged media events via television and film. He argues that people like to consume but also to produce and share. He then suggests that if just a small section of time previously devoted to consuming media is diverted to producing and sharing, it actually amounts to a lot. This, he says, explains the appetite for social media.

So social media, in Shirky’s terms, is a leisure activity. This is worrying for an academic. This means that if I blog using my social surplus then I am substituting work for leisure, working harder and longer in fact.

However, I have always argued that reading the newspaper was, given my profession as educator, in reality part leisure and part work. Emails are certainly mostly work. So I reckon that in switching the way I use some of my work time as well as this blurred bit of work-leisure time, I am actually still doing work, but differently. I have given up some work activities in order to do work in another medium.

But what do you think?

Are you using work time or leisure time to ‘do’ social media? What have you given up doing, in order to take up social media?

(* There’s another whole post, if not several scholarly monographs, on the binary Shirky constructs of paid work/leisure.)

Shirky, C (2012) “Gin, television and social surplus” in The Social Media Reader (Ed M Mandberg) pp. 236-241 New York: New York University Press

About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
This entry was posted in academic blogging, leisure, social surplus, time, work and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to finding the time to blog

  1. Pingback: AcWriMo Reflections | Explorations of Style

  2. Thanks for the great post. As an emerging researcher from a non-traditional pathway into academia, the value I get from blogs is the advice and experience of others from their own academic lives. There are so many things I want to do as a new researcher (blog, twitter, etc) but my dilemma is this: I don’t know whether I would be usefully contributing value to the knowledge-o-sphere or just end up with another bit of space junk that says a lot about nothing. So for me, it’s not just about finding time to blog, but finding the justification to blog. I also feel a bit ‘funny’ about blogging on work time – I don’t know if it is seen as a scholarly enough pursuit by my peers.


  3. Frithjof says:

    Thanks for finding the time to write this post!
    As a Social Media consultant I constantly walk that fine line between work and leisure but I found that the same is true with most people that found a way to make their passion into a profession.

    One of the most common questions I get asked is: How much time do you spend? I’m sorry but I don’t have an answer. A. because I’m really bad at recording time. B. Because I fill those in-between times with engaging on Social Media and my blog is part of that.
    PS: I have added your post to my “Top 10 blog posts” list I publish this list every week to save others time …. so they can blog more 🙂


  4. Pingback: » Reflections on writing book chapters The Sociological Imagination

  5. Pingback: From 2016 to 2017: Thoughts on Research Practice, Embedding Creativity, Punk Academia, and Work-Life Balance | Dr Kieran Fenby-Hulse

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