Professors of TikTok

This post continues our series by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large.

What is TikTok, besides the latest social-media craze seemingly custom-designed to make everyone over 23 feel past their expiration date? And is it at all relevant to faculty life? For some professors, the video-sharing app, which has people record themselves doing dances or lip-synch challenges (or, sometimes, singing sea shanties in gorgeous harmony), has proved to be a real creative outlet—and a good place to spread a bit of knowledge, outside of the classroom. Here are a few fun faculty to follow.

@dr_inna (Inna Kanevsky, psychology professor): Kanevsky’s popular feed (693.2K followers as we’re writing this) fact-checks viral tidbits about psychology and other scientific matters, answers questions, and demystifies the nuts and bolts of doing science. For fact-checking, Kanevsky takes advantage of TikTok’s “stitch” function, adding her own professorial commentary onto popular videos.

@professorcasey (Casey Fiesler, professor of information science): Fiesler, who studies tech ethics, puts up cheerful explainers about matters of intellectual property and popular culture, answers questions about social media, and even analyzes the app itself, as in a recent TikTok that presented the research case for native captioning.

@juliustheprofessor (Julius Bailey, professor of religion): Bailey answers questions about religion, talks about faculty life, and makes a lot of visual jokes about grading. (The dice-roll one is particularly good.) 

@ms.christinacosta (Christina Costa, psychology Ph.D candidate): Costa, who studies the brain, was diagnosed with a brain tumor last year—an irony she’s taken in stride in many funny TikToks since. Her feed is a mix of information TikToks about college learning, and “inside” views of her cancer treatment, all leavened with a healthy dose of humor. 

@theprofessormom (“Dr. B.,” political scientist): The purple-haired professor answers questions about international relations as a subfield, talks about teaching on Zoom, and brings her expertise to bear on topics in the news, as in this recent commentary on COVID vaccine hoarding. 

@drgtown (Serena Gramling, professor of nursing): Professor humor mixes with hospital humor in Gramling’s feed, which is fiercely pro-student, pro-vaccine, and pro-nurse. 

@drdre4000 (Andre Korrie, rank not publicly available): “Chemist, King, Skinny Legend,” this account’s bio reads; the videos, often co-starring students, shine with love for the many hijinks of lab life. 

@professorbren (Rachel Brenner, professor of psychology): As this retrospective TikTok demonstrates, Brenner got really, really into the format in the last year, and her enthusiasm for it shines through. Brenner’s prolific feed is full of commentary on the tenure track, gender politics, and creative responses to TikTok challenges. 

As lighthearted time-sucks go, TikTok is a great one. Add one—or all!—of these faculty members to your “following” mix, to get a little academia in your feed!

What online networking tactics and groups have been fulfilling and valuable for you this year? Share your recommendations and stories with us on Twitter.