Over the last six months or so, I have made lovely connections with people over twitter. Some of these have led to the rekindling of friendships that were never really lost. Others have led to the beginning of new friendships, coffee catch-ups before lockdowns, as well as an opportunity for me to connect with someone I now consider to be a mentor. For me, twitter is about developing a stronger sense of community around my research interests. I also carefully pick and curate my twitter feed and choose not to engage with academic assholes (though it is social media, they can be tricky to spot at times). For the most part, I would say everyone I have engaged with has been wonderful. It has helped that I have had great people around me who advocate and support what I do.  

The connections I’ve made are from all parts of the world, not just my hometown of Melbourne. They are from places as diverse as Puerto Rico, Spain, UK, USA, Germany and the list goes on. We had (and continue to have) twitter discussions around topics of academia, writing, research, methodology and qualitative software. There would be the occasional DM, and we would sometimes brainstorm about ways we could collaborate or support one another. I found and built an online community that shared a common passion. I mean, let’s be honest, very few people are passionate about qualitative research, and even fewer about research software.

When the pandemic hit, those who were on the other side of the world started to reach out and we began connecting (virtually) face-to-face. It became an opportunity for us to meet. In many ways those international connections became as physically close as the ones in Melbourne. The only way to connect was virtually, so we did.

We spent time talking about research methods, our roles and responsibilities in life, and in some cases, bringing our authentic self to the conversation. With others, we taught each other different types of qualitative research software. So far, I have learned Delve, Dedoose, Quirkos, MAXQDA and I have taught others NVivo. We exchanged this knowledge freely. There has been a joy in these online connections. Most are also trainers, and like much of the rest of the world, have already felt and will feel a significant loss of income. We talked of challenges as well as other losses we have experienced during this time. But interestingly, our conversations didn’t centre on these things. They were about the pleasure of meeting someone face to face when all we have had is interaction through twitter or DM’s. They were about the joy of connecting with another person that shares similar passions and interests, especially now.

It is funny when you tweet people because you have their name and interact with them, but you never really know a person until you see them. They come to life as it were when you see them over a video. I’ve also had an opportunity to speak to some of the developers of the different tools, and have been so impressed with their vision and commitment to developing tools that put the researcher at the centre of their design.

I found that in every single session, I was fascinated and absorbed so much of what people were showing me. I was as engrossed as if I were watching a movie. I would laugh when there was a silly feature, shout out in glee when there was something I loved, and at times I would get so excited I would talk unstoppably about an element I loved and how it could be applied (thanks to all those that were patient with me while I did that)! Yes, I am a nerd. And let’s be honest, I love things that other nerds call nerdy. But that’s just me.

I have been learning a lot through the sessions and time with people. It’s been a nice reminder of how much I love qualitative analysis. I’ve learned that different software connects you to the data in a different way and allows you to analyse data differently. I have been grateful for the support, advice and encouragement others have offered to me during these sessions and am happy that I have been able offer some of the same.

I have enjoyed finding this global research community through twitter, and hope it continues to grow.

I have also been working on a new project to hep PhD Students during the pandemic @virtualnotviral. An account and website that Pat Thomson (@thomsonpat) and I started. It is all a bit of a whirlwind, and I’m not sure I’m ready to share that journey with you all yet….

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