This is a post on my choice of medium to communicate online.
The allure to become a ‘Youtube star’ is very strong in the 21st Century. Makeup, styled hair and a HD camera capturing your adventures for billions to watch; being a Youtube vlogger can earn you some serious bucks if you are engaging, attractive and do something interesting. I know of some fellow Australians who landed full-time contracts just by posting videos on Youtube about their passions, and that sounds amazing.
Problem is..I have a face for Radio.
Not that I have self-esteem issues – I don’t mind my face. It’s round, friendly, and relatively average. I blend in perfectly in large crowds – but I am realistic about my capabilities. I would have to obsess over my looks for hours before every video if I made one, and having that as my main mode of communication sounds awful, not to mention that even though I may like my own face, others may not – and personal attacks hurt, man.
I have tried pretty much everything else. I’ve worked for a community radio station for two years, and I was relatively popular in that small sphere. Problem with radio, and podcasts, is that you usually require more than one person to make it sound interesting. Audio variability – or a ‘variety’ of voices – are typically more engaging than just one person droning on about a single topic. On my own I cannot fulfil that variety, and I do not yet have enough resources to collaborate with someone on a regular basis. So, radio is out for now.
I’ve tried blogging in the past, but it doesn’t reach a wide enough audience on its own. You usually need to pair it with social media. I know that many people in my industry cry the praises of LinkedIn, but for me it’s too formal. LinkedIn gives off the exact vibe I want to avoid as a professional. I want to actually be engaging, interesting, and wear a suit as little as possible.
Facebook is also…not the appropriate medium for business advertising and community engagement unless you’re advertising a product or service. For academics and researchers like myself, the general public doesn’t WANT to know what I do unless there’s something fabulous or groundbreaking about it. Follower count speaks in volumes, and over 10x more people would rather ‘follow’ Queen of Drag Queens Ru Paul than PhD candidate Kendrick. That’s just the facts.
But combining social outreach with internal-monologuing-made-public has worked for me…somewhat. I’m no Neil Degrasse Tyson or Bill Nye, so people don’t tune in for every opinion I have on my field, but I am currently a small fish in a big pond with a loud mouth. Eventually, people start to hear me. So, I linked a Twitter account to this blog.
For direct, immediate outreach and communication, people have my Twitter (@MIKendrick94) . I comment on current events that are relevant to my work, and sometimes I provide some ‘professional’ input. Whether it’s the working conditions of doctors, the behaviour of CEOs or management, or even just an opinion on someone’s day when they’re writing their own Thesis – I participate where I can. Furthermore, I offer more in-depth advice to others via direct message if I feel that our relationship could benefit. If I have a professional contact that’s struggling with a management concept that I’m well versed in, I’ll lend a hand by pointing them in the right direction rather than force them to learn by trial-and-error. That’s how it works, for me and for many others in the Academic community on Twitter. I’m very approachable, and I enjoy interacting with my followers. It’s one of the benefits of a plain, friendly face.
This blog goes a little deeper than Twitter. Since Twitter limits people to around 150 characters, and Academics are long-winded, soliloquy-type people, blogging is a great format to hash out ideas and plans beyond a quick snapshot. If I tried to post all of this on Twitter the nuance would simply be lost by a list of staggered tweets trying to communicate my feelings. Yet my ideas and feelings aren’t quite a lecture. I don’t want to force people to sit in a room for an hour while I rant and rave…I want my readers to want to know what I wrote about a particular topic. I want my ideas to be easily searchable, cite-able, and open for comment and discussion. Thus, I link specific posts on my Twitter account so that my intended audience can see – and choose to read – my blog.
I’m sure someday I may regret one or two of the things I post, and will have to retract it. Some people might not like the way I discuss being ex-Catholic, or how awkwardly I approach personal topics when this is very clearly linked to a ‘professional’ Twitter.
But that’s me. I often blur the lines between business and pleasure because I consider my work to be similar to a hobby. I put in as much effort as I want, mix in a little of my personal life, and the results speak for themselves.
A violinist that practices for 2 hours a day will most often be better than a violinist that practices for 2 hours a week, and you can choose this skill to be a hobby or a profession. I approach my work in academics in a similar fashion. I’m trying it out – like a kid taking up an instrument for the first time – and if I like how it feels, I’ll keep rolling with it. However, since I’m not approaching this potential career as ‘the be-all and end-all’ of my life, I feel free to dabble. I’ll throw in some obscure information about bees that I learned on the weekend, or casually use pop-culture references to explain a serious-business-management topic. Then, if at a conference someone approaches me, shakes my hand and says “why do you keep talking to yourself, even online? Those vague prompts you write for yourself on your blog are unsettling as hell“, I will approach it with the good humour and respect that an unconventional question deserves. After all, if I receive unconventional questions that test myself, then I will feel as if I have succeeded in creating an unconventional career.
But there is one fact that I cannot deny in my existence as a researcher on the internet. While I feel that I have plenty of interesting things to say, and heaps of wonderful places to talk about, I have more of a face for radio.