From "be-negative" to "oh-positive" – Academia needs cheerleaders today
I am addicted to Twitter and Instagram! To me, academic Twitter and Instagram come alive! I see them take on several roles every day. Sometimes they’re like a personal diary on which you can freely share your thoughts. On some other days, they play the role of a tutor who can help you with useful tips and guidance about conducting research or dealing with academic life; a mentor who takes a new protégé, an aspiring researcher, under their wing; a friend who’s ever willing to lend a sympathetic shoulder; a cheerleader who’s always there to lift your spirits and celebrate your victories; or a dependable listener who can hear you out.
Over the past few months, however, I have noticed a lot of conversations on academic Twitter and Instagram about the negative, toxic culture in academia and how it can severely cripple the spirit of even the most enthusiastic researchers. This, I feel, is a reflection of the immense pressure those who are part of academia feel – to enroll, qualify, study, write, defend, succeed, procure employment, get tenure, settle down, deal with the demands of professional and personal lives, and so on. These challenges are real and to the researchers dealing with them, they could even be unending and demotivating.
Here’s the other side to this. It is certainly important to highlight what’s not working in academia because such conversations will only help academia function better. But this begs one question – is this enough?
Perhaps we need something that will bring out the positive, inspired side of academia. It is important for researchers to realize that they are not alone and that there are several others who’re experiencing something similar, that they are already part of a teeming, thriving academic community that can support its members by listening and sharing – something like the Your Research. Your Life. Your Story. platform that binds researchers through their personal stories.
And so I started scouring Twitter and Instagram to find optimists, friends, mentors, tutors, cheerleaders, and listeners who help balance this negativity by egging researchers on, showing them how they can find inspiration by sharing their innermost fears or anxieties, and motivating those who are feeling disheartened about their prospects in academia.
And I was not disappointed!
I came across many beautiful conversations which showed how the academic community is ever eager to offer support to those who need it the most, gently nudge the disheartened to get up and achieve their goal. This was what I was looking for – the optimism to balance the negativity, the inspiration that is essential for researchers to go on and tackle the challenges of their academic journey head on!
This got me thinking:
Why not get researchers to become cheerleaders for each other by sharing one simple positive thought for each day of the year! Won’t this help them stay motivated and focused on their goal and prepare them to face challenges along the way?
The more I repeated this thought to myself, the more I was convinced about trying to get this done. So I started approaching researchers on Twitter, Instagram, and the Editage Insights platform requesting them to share positive thoughts for their fellow researchers. My mission is still incomplete – I will consider it fulfilled when I get one quote for each day of 2020. Thus far, I have received 190 beautiful, motivational thoughts for researchers by researchers! Here’s the link to the shared Google doc where I am collecting these thoughts:
Reading what others have shared for this calendar is at once a humbling and encouraging experience. I am amazed at the resilience researchers are showing as well as their willingness to come forward to become cheerleaders for others who are in this journey just as they are or have been. If you ever feel so depressed that you start questioning yourself and your place in academia, and worry about failure, these priceless positive nuggets will cheer you up. They will give you the courage to go on and achieve your dreams.
Become a cheerleader for researchers!
Would you like to influence this stream of positivity by contributing to it? Would you like to become a cheerleader for researchers?
You could be a source of inspiration for researchers. Leave a positive quote on this calendar – share something that you feel may help others sail through turbulent times during their journey in academia. What you say could really make a difference – it could help other researchers smile, feel more confident about themselves and prepare to deal with tough situations in their lives. Your journey and what you have learned along the way matters. And by sharing a positive, inspiring thought with your fellow researchers, you can be a true cheerleader for them. You could be the "oh-positive" to the "be-negative" in their lives.
What next, you ask?
We are already working on designing this calendar to make it available online soon! For now, I am sharing one thought every day on Twitter (follow @jayash00 for more updates on this). Once I hit 366 quotes: I’ll gleefully say, “We did it! YOU did it!”
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