Professor Potty Mouth
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I don’t take the social networking tool very seriously. But I’m always shocked by how seriously other people take my Twitter account!
In a meeting a few weeks ago, the CEO of an established company asked me, “What are your strategies for attracting new followers?”
Well, I don’t really have a strategy. I just tweet whenever the mood strikes and I have access to a Twitter application. I tweet when I’m planning my classes, when I’m writing, when I’m reading, when I’m at the grocery store, when I’m on the bus, and sometimes when I’ve been drinking a little too much. I hardly censor myself.
And some other people don’t seem to like that. I’ve received direct messages from followers who have never even met me, suggesting that I “Stop tweeting right now! You’re embarrassing yourself.” One very bitter person told me that I am unfit to be a professor because I include curse words and “low” vocabulary like “dude” in my tweets. As a writer who uses “dude”, how could I ever expect to achieve any success?
I just have to laugh. If you think that maintaining a PG Twitter stream is a way to achieve or maintain professional success, you have a lot to learn. I’m less concerned about cursing/diction and more concerned about tweeting something ignorant, slanderous, or truly offensive.
I know that, when it counts, I do my job, and I do my job well. Formality is meant for academic essays, business e-mails, proposals, and press releases. Twitter does not require formality – I know that because something that wants to be taken seriously wouldn’t be named “Twitter”.
Also, I’m 25 years old. Sure, I am old enough to be a responsible adult, but I think my casual, sometimes naive, tweeting reinforces the fact that I do still have a lot to learn – and I never pretend otherwise.
For anyone who thinks that cursing taints my image as a professor, I just have to ask: have you ever taken a creative writing class? My absolute favorite professors – the ones who were always the most animated, passionate, and approachable – cursed like sailors.
I rarely curse in class – I said bullshit last week and felt weird about it – but my students use “bad” words in their writing. And they use the words intelligently. Some of the readings I assign include more profanity than I post on Twitter in a whole year.
Writing that contains profanity is not simply meant to have shock value. In fact, skilled writers usually do cursing so well that the readers hardly notices it – the curse words become part of the book’s normal, accepted vernacular.
If you’re telling people how they should behave on Twitter, then maybe it’s time for you to get off the computer and read something that’s meant to be taken seriously, like a book. But stay away from Ulysses, The Catcher in the Rye, and Slaughterhouse Five.
(Photo by meddygarnet)