NPF: TAKE A LAP

A few weeks ago a successful political scientist wrote a blog post about the four-plus years and multiple rejections it took to get a single paper published. Academic publishing is hard. If you are not a person who handles (constant) rejection and (incessant) criticism reasonably well, this is not the right profession for you. This post appears to have done a lot of good, though. Many of my peers have been genuinely surprised to see that even the "stars" of the profession struggle and deal with loads of rejection.

It is surprising only inasmuch as the successes are public and the failures are not (I'm something of an outlier in my willingness to talk openly about getting rejected). Social media distorts our perspective on how well others are doing. We show the world pictures of our friends, not the time we spend alone on the couch. We post pictures of our vacations, not of us dragging ourselves out of bed at sunrise to drag ourselves to work in the rain. And we post things like "Woo! Just got a paper accepted!" but tend not to tell the world when we've been shot down.

This brings me, however circuitously, to the point. Do we use social media mostly to brag? Probably. And I'm a-ok with that.

My social circle is mostly academics, marginally employed creative types, and other types of people who are generally served more lemons than lemonade by life. Despite what the collages of smiling pictures we post on Facebook suggest, things aren't always great. For all of the rejection we deal with, I have no problem whatsoever with my friends doing some electronic bragging. If it took you five tries and three years to get a paper published, you've goddamn well earned the most trivial of victory laps. I understand why some people think this is tacky, but in my view life deals us enough downers that we deal with privately to justify a little glory-basking when things go well.

Not too long ago, one of my many academic friends got tenure. He announced it to the world on Facebook. A different person sent me a message to the effect of, "Isn't his bragging the worst? What a tool." It's not wrong to assume that Ed, The Guy Who Hates Everything, would sympathize. But here's the thing: getting tenure occupies a full decade of a person's life from ABD to Associate Prof. For all of the nights/weekends that person stayed in working while others went out, for all the sleepless nights and rejection and stress, they have more than earned the right to say "Hey, I made it" even if it is fishing for pats on the back. I'm happy for him. I want to know when things go well for him. I'll gladly dole out some back-pats.

Yes, if you gloat obnoxiously about every conceivable thing that goes right in your life, you probably need to tone that down a bit. The rest of us reserve our right to slap you if it comes to that. But there's no need to be shy about it when things go well. We're adults here. We understand that the mundane and the miserable take up a large enough share of life; when good things do happen we need to embrace them. Unless you happen to have a magically perfect life, you eat enough shitburgers to treat yourself to the occasional slice of cake.

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28 Responses to “NPF: TAKE A LAP”

  1. middle seaman Says:

    High level of rejection for many indicates shortage of journals, quarterlies as opposed to monthlies, too few pages, etc. Political science doesn't consist of a higher percentage of morons compared to, for example, math. The community or private publishing ought to solve the problem.

    In my area high rejection rate is on the increase in request for research funding. The government slowly but surely cuts money for research. American exceptionalism is on the run towards China. Between NIH and Citibank, the latter wins hands down.

    Let the boys boast. I don't care, be arrogant, be obnoxious, have sex on Main street.

  2. Nunya Says:

    Amen to that. I'm happy go hear about my friends' successes and good times. Most of us understand that life is mostly tedium and misery that we rightly keep to ourselves. The bright moments are the ones we share.

    Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.

  3. hamletta Says:

    You are a beautiful cat.

    I just threw out a boxful of issues of a medical journal I used to work for. Didn't matter. It never got into MEDLine, so all that work didn't count.

  4. c u n d gulag Says:

    I don't "do" social media.

    When they invent anti-social media, you be sure to contact me – but not via social media.

    Maybe I should try my hand at creating anti-social networks?
    F*ckYourFaceBook!
    OuttaMyFace!
    URA-Twit!
    LinkedOUT!
    LinkDIS!

    How're any of those?

  5. Major Kong Says:

    Constant rejection? I thought maybe we were talking about my dating life when I was younger.

  6. Anonymouse Says:

    Gulag, will you marry me? I feel the same way about social media.

  7. Tosh Says:

    Social media=digital masterbation
    (Tenure is a major event…)

  8. GunstarGreen Says:

    While I can agree largely in pricinple, I think the problem crops up when everybody's doing it. As you said, Ed, it creates a false sense of everyone doing well. It becomes a game, a constant contest to one-up the next person — and then you end up with spectacles like The Rich Kids of Instagram.

    This is part of the core problem I have with social media, and why I don't really participate in it (among other things such as privacy concerns — I refuse to sign up for an account on the website of a man who openly said that his users are fools to trust him with their data). It creates an echo chamber of unwarranted self-importance. Celebrating the big milestones of life quickly gives way to celebrating everything even remotely good, which gives way to just plain old celebrating the self constantly. It degenerates, as it already has in a lot of ways, into a bunch of people constantly patting each other on the back over the internet for the most minor of things, until nobody really remembers how to deal with the downer parts of life out in the real world.

  9. c u n d gulag Says:

    Anonymouse,
    Sure!

    Just contact me via my InYourFaceBook! page.

    Oh, wait – I haven't created that site yet! ;-)

  10. FMguru Says:

    What in the?!?

    Tenure is just about the most important thing that can happen in an academic's life, it's the professional equivalent of a marriage or the birth of a child. Bragging and one-upping and humble-bragging and look-at-me and here's the seventy-fourth magical and wonderful thing my eight year old did today do get annoying, but a tenure announcement?

    If you're upset that someone is using their facebook page to celebrate the biggest possible event in their career, THEN WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU FOLLOWING THEM ON FACEBOOK?!?!

  11. Well mostly Says:

    No joy in others successes, probably little empathy for their failures or misery. Same muscle, different direction. Of course, gloating, or complaining, challenges that. Apparently "social" media (is there any other kind?) adds a new twist. I'm with cu: never done that, so I don't know.
    Momma told me never brag and the few times I have……..the thing falls to shit very quickly.
    Yes, Ed's right. We're adults. A little recognition, even self-directed, doesn't kill anyone.
    I think of the Olympics: four years training, at least, for a few moments of glory, maybe. I always tear up for those getting medals, but also for those who tried just as hard but have to watch the ceremony with the rest of us. I appreciate that people try. There's so much around us where people don't.

  12. Xecky Gilchrist Says:

    The whining you hear these days about bragging on Facebook is pretty much the same stuff you heard about the Web in the mid-90s – other media trying to find any reason at all to tear it down.

    If you don't like social media, fine. If you have problems with the lack of privacy, fine. But pseudoscience about how we gets a sad from seeing our friends be happy doesn't make it worthless.

  13. Doctor Rock Says:

    I think the anti-social media people just don't want to accept/see the fact that it can be used sparingly and responsibly. It's an easy way to access most of the people I know. And the people I work with, we have an understanding that we don't just friend each other-that's the only thing I don't like. The expectation of some people that if you interact with them once and they're a friend of a friend or you work with them, you have to accept their friend request or you're a dick. I just want my Facebook for my close friends and family members I can stand (and inlaws, although I block everything Facebook allows me to from them). I think you used to be able to prevent people from posting on your wall, guess you can't do that anymore.

    I also take great pleasure in putting false information on Facebook. It makes me feel like I'm ripping Zuckercorn off. Yes I only listen to Robyn Hitchcock and my favorite movie is broken arrow. Whatever.

  14. J. Dryden Says:

    [Note: This will rehash much of what others have written here already. Consider it a tribute, rather than laziness.]

    When you encounter a 'brag' on a social media site* and roll your eyes at the poster, here's a good acid test: conduct a thought experiment. Imagine that, rather than bragging, the person posted a complaint about something of similar weight–the loss of a pet, a bad car accident, a visit to the ER, etc. Now: Did you roll your eyes at the person's naked plea for sympathy and attention? If so, then congratulations–you, my friend, are the asshole.

    The problem isn't the bragging, nor the just as frequent appeals for comfort. The problem is that social media encourages us to count among our friends people we actually don't like at all. If someone I like or love achieves something great, and tells me, I'm delighted. If a stranger does the same things, I'm annoyed because I don't KNOW you and the only reason YOU would tell ME, a STRANGER, is to boast, and fuck you.

    But, see, they're not strangers. You invited them in when you clicked "Friend" or "Follow." Once you did that, you gave them the green light to assume that you would be happy for them when they shared good news, and would be sad for them when they shared bad news. If someone's "brag" pisses you off–defriend that person immediately. No good can come of continuing to associate with someone you actively do not give a damn about–it makes you a liar and him/her a fool.

    In short, it's not the "brag," it's the asshole pretending to be a friend who'd be happy to hear the news. It's you.

    *Full disclosure: I'm on Facebook. I rarely update, and my circle of friends is limited to people whose in-presence company I actively enjoy, but still, I'm part of the problem.

  15. wnsrfr Says:

    I once invented the word Vicarion which to me means someone from whom I derive vicarious pleasure from. That's because once I realized I was never going to Windsurf or surf like Laird Hamilton, I might as well enjoy it when he does it like he can do it.

    I feel the same way when my friends on FB do something great or post a picture of themselves having fun. That's because they are my friends, not just people I associate with! It is much better to enjoy it than to wallow in jealousy, which I guess is the other option…

    I can do without the peripheral friend describing how great dinner was. That's just over-sharing and easy to ignore…

  16. ladiesbane Says:

    Hey, I move around a lot, and I have friends all over. I don't mind at all when people post a great meal or that they are out of milk for their cereal damnit or whatever — it makes me feel in touch with folks I miss. Their little bummers are just as welcome as their great victories, if they are the sort of people who share at that level. All that stuff is welcome to me.

    But I do have a couple of dear friends who are relentless self-promoters. One is trying to get a business off the ground (I'd help if I still lived there, but I don't) and the other demands constant applause and attention simply as fuel for her day. The former is understandable, but the latter is maddening. Tenure is the holy grail for a lot of people, and the only ones who grouse about the news are envious adjunct asses. It's not the same as fifteen posts per day that can all be filed under Damn I'm Awesome.

  17. Monkey Business Says:

    I restrain my gloating to only those instances where I know it'll make it better by rubbing it in someone's face. For example, when I got my new job, I whipped that sumbitch out on LinkedIn to slap my former manager around with it like a trout.

  18. A Barbarian Inside the Gate Says:

    Ed, I just wanted to note: I work in scholarly publishing and for better or worse, this is the future:

    PeerJ.com

    Kind of the Authorhouse of scholarly publishing. Authors pay a one-time lifetime membership fee, get their paper vetted, peer-reviewed in 10 days, edited (for an extra fee…), and published for free. Online only, Open Access, no royalties, no copyright … which means a third party legally could simply cut-n-paste an article or 20 into a book and sell it as his own edited collection, with zero money going to the original authors.

    Oh, and since there are no pesky acquisitions editors or independent scholars determining what articles are timely, impactful, or "sexy," the value of scholarship here is determined by word of mouth, page views, and Reddit-style thumbs-up. And the dreaded online comments section.

    But wait — there's more! Are you an undergrad? PeerJ will also publish YOUR DRAFT (for a nominal fee).

    Who says there's no money in higher education?

    Right now pretty much only hard science going this route, which makes sense as scientists really do thrive on as much data as is available. Here, more of it is available, faster, with no middleme—uhh, publishers gumming up the works and (ha!) trying to make a buck off scholarship. The nerve of some people.

    So save your pennies, Ed! You'll be able to buy your way to the top of your field someday.

  19. guttedleafsfan Says:

    I was armwrestled into starting a Facebook page by my son. I posted, "I am not doing anything interesting" and nothing since, except one G&T comment I copied to facebook by mistake.

    I like following the son and other f&f's though.

  20. Andrew Says:

    Also, you're going to get at most ONE tenure brag per academic friend per lifetime. I think you can handle the volume.

  21. Entomologista Says:

    Scientific publishing is a racket, and there is a reason every single scientist hates publishers. I pay per page to publish. Then I pay (or the institution I work for pays) an exorbitant subscription fee. And then I do your work for you, for free, in the form of peer review of articles. I also have to specially format the paper for the journal, because apparently the gobs of cash I'm forking over isn't enough to pay somebody to format it for publication. The public has to pay you to access data generated by studies funded with taxpayer dollars. And then, at the end, the journal retains copyright of something I've written.

  22. jazzbumpa Says:

    Ed nailed it, and so did Dryden – up to the end – what problem, I wonder.

    It's really very easy to not read posts on FB or anywhere else. So complaints that something is annoying is really just whining.

    I suppose I do a little bragging on FB, but I also post and share a lot of sports commentary and left-leaning political stuff that anyone can read or gloss over at their whim.

    My niece just moved to NC. I enjoy pictures of her culinary experiments and pet adventures. I like seeing pix of my friend's kids, and reading the latest cute thing little 7-yr-old Brooke said.

    Mostly I want to see pix of my grandchidren's school activities.

    Bottom line – if you don't like it, you don't have to read it. Move on and have a nice day.

    Cheers!
    JzB

  23. Carrstone Says:

    Could it be that you get rejected because your submission was crap? On the other hand, why not take a leaf out of the Intelligent Design world and create a magazine that doesn't reject dross?

    Oh wait, as the Barbarian informs us, there's PeerJ.com; I wonder how large their readership will be? And, best of all, no critiques!

    You academics, you make me barf with your constant need for adoration. You don't get FB contributions from plumbers on u-bends; academicians, however, are first in line with 'clever and relevant' contributions from their field of study and employment. As though anybody cared ….

    You made your bed, now lie in it!

  24. Mo Says:

    Paul Krugman

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/17/open-science-and-the-econoblogosphere/

  25. Delbort Says:

    @Carrstone

    I'm an electrician and I talk about work on FB all the time. I spend a large percentage of my time at work, so it's something I have a lot to say about. So, if you don't hear from plumbers about U-bends it's only because you don't know any plumbers.

  26. Carrstone Says:

    @Delbort

    Wrong, I do know several plumbers, being one myself. I just don't know any boring electricians.

  27. Stefan Says:

    Not just social media. Happening in every social context. When people meet they dont tell each other about about the bad times (well except those out for pity). Its also how our memory works. It remembers good things more than bad things.

  28. LK Says:

    Reading this post and thinking about this topic made me sick to my bones. It gave a whole new perspective to all the FB "rape culture" posts we discussed here not so many months ago. These were not just accidental, mundane posts- those kids were actually _proud_ of what they "achieved"! Lucky I don't live in the US, as this thing is worse than I initially thought.