One paper that I read and reread as I was starting to get into Twitter research was Anatoliy Gruzd, Barry Wellman, and Yuri Takhteyev’s “Imagining Twitter as an Imagined Community,” published in a 2011 issue of American Behavioral Scientist. I thought of this paper again yesterday; more specifically, I thought about the anecdote that the article begins with:
Barry and Beverly Wellman moved to Toronto more than 40 years ago. Not being able to get a public school job at first, Beverly went to teach English-language subjects at a Jewish day school. She lived downtown and commuted to the suburbs. One day the principal asked her,
“When are you moving to be among your own kind?”
“Where do the academics live?” Beverly replied.
The principal imagined Beverly to be part of the “Jewish community of Toronto,” a set of all the Jews living in the city, not realizing that Beverly has multiple social identities and networks (Wellman [1971, 1979, 2001] discusses multiple social identi- ties and networks).
Tomorrow, after presenting virtually at one conference, I’m hopping on a plane to Salt Lake City to attend another conference. I have never considered Utah my home, but I’ve spent a lot of time in Utah throughout my life to “be among my own kind.” This is not the first time that I’ve visited Utah since re-evaluating the Mormon identity that was so important during the majority of my life, but it is the first time I’m visiting Utah with the goal of “being among my own kind” and understanding “my own kind” as “academics” instead of “fellow Latter-day Saints.”
And yet, the work that I’m presenting at this conference is (mostly) at the intersection of Mormon Studies and internet research, and there’s no way I’d be involved in Mormon Studies if it weren’t for “my own kind” being defined in Mormon terms. Also, because “my own kind” is still comprised of people with direct or indirect connections with Mormonism, I have a list of friends and family that I’m going to try to see in between conference events.
There’s not much to this post except to comment on how Gruzd et al.’s comments on “multiple social identities and networks” still ring true even years after first reading the paper. It’s interesting to live the phenomena that one also studies, and I’m looking forward to doing so this weekend.
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