September 21, 2023

Quit Lit

As twitter… I don’t even know what metaphor to reach for to describe what is happening to twitter, but all I know is that we will be calling it “doing a twitter” from now on. Anyway, as twitter does a twitter, I’ve seen people talk about several tools for archiving your social media output. This has always sort of puzzled me. I kind of don’t mind if social media is ephemeral, impermanent. I know this has a lot to do with how I use it, but for me, I don’t think I’d mind if all the nonsense I wrote on twitter just stopped being accessible.

Apart from, that is, one thread I did about leaving academia, which I think is probably worth saving. I’ve copied it in here, and reformatted it somewhat, but I’ve refrained from editing the content. I wrote this in January 2022 which was basically a year since my contract as a research fellow ran out. I had been looking after my son full time and being more serious about learning to code. But y’know, I had been an academic for nearly a decade and it wasn’t just something I drifted away from. I left and I had good reasons to leave. I think this thread captures something of the way I felt about the decision I was in the process of making to leave academia for good. Everything else on my twitter profile? Commit it to the flames.

Here’s the reformatted thread. Contains swears.

Listening to the latest @HiPhiNation episode, about transformative experience, reminded me of something that happened almost two years ago. My wife had just given birth to our son, and they hand me the new baby for the first time. And my brain, I don’t know why it’s like this, decided to remind me of the scene in the West Wing where Toby sees his kids for the first time. Toby immediately calls the West Wing to persuade them to invoke the 25th amendment. Because Elizabeth Moss had been kidnapped and Toby suddenly realises how powerful the drive to protect one’s kids is. In the days after The Boy arrived, I thought back to that moment (i.e. me in the delivery room, not Toby) and was like “yeah, that was transformative experience”. Anyway, since February I’ve been a stay at home dad which has been rewarding and exhausting.

And I’ve had a second, more stealthy, more extended transformative experience. I think I just don’t want to work in academia any more? Like, I enjoyed a lot of bits of my job, and I think I would like to be an academic in an ideal world where the academic system wasn’t quite so dysfunctional. But the reality is terrible. Academic publishing is fucked. Research grants are fucked. In the UK, staff pensions are fucked. The workload is fucked. The gender balance is fucked. The race balance… worse than fucked. We couldn’t even come together and all agree that maybe let’s not publish articles that are just like chock full of antisemitic tropes? To say nothing of the way academic philosophy is used to launder and legitimise transphobic talking points.

But Seamus, don’t you love the disinterested pursuit of the truth? I sure do, and I wish all the smart people universities employ could actually get some time to do that.

And I was thinking about the value of testimony when making decisions about transformative experiences. I don’t think it’s as irrelevant as some people suggest. My academic friends mostly complain about admin or strikes or stupid management decisions, but friends who left almost all say “I’m happier since I left”. That doesn’t seem irrelevant to the decision?

Consider this my contribution to the quit lit genre.

© Seamus Bradley 2021–3

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