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on January 17, 2017

Thanks to the copious blog assignments I have come to be familiar with throughout the year, blogging has become crucial to my understanding of digital citizenship. This is proved beneficial both academically and socially as I explored the internet and reached out to other online students. In addition, blogging taught our class to make connections online to better equip us with the tools we need to navigate the subject of the modern world: digital technology.

One connective outlet with which we experimented was the popular social network called Twitter, where one can message one’s own thoughts publicly, for better or for worse. That is the beauty of Twitter; it can serve as a quick, effective resource for communication, or a virtual void in which to scream extremist profanities in hopes one might receive a “like” or a “follow.”

With my new Twitter account, I searched and subscribed to ten Twitter users who were knowledgeable in my area of interest. This included experts, scientists, authors, and companies all associated with my research topic: sleep science. These include but are not limited to: Amy M Bender, PhD @Sleep4Sport, Amy Reynolds @SleepGutsHealth, Project Sleep @project_sleep, Max Kirsten @Max_Kirsten, Dr Stephanie Silberman @sleeppsychology, Julea Steiner @jbs_unc, Terry Cralle, R.N. @PowerofSleep, Sally Ferguson @Sal_Ferguson, Sleep Foundation @sleepfoundation, and Dr. Michael Grandner @michaelgrandner. None were too quick to follow my meagre student account, and I don’t blame them. I then created a Twitter list of said accounts.

The next step was to broach the void between my drafted questions and these online savvies by composing ten introductory tweets, one directed to each user. Two kind sleep doctors responded, Dr. Michael Grandner and Dr. Amy Bender, making clear that they were ready to share their information for my benefit.

A few weeks passed, and I was ready to ask my questions, which I had previously drafted, covering various topics in the sleep science realm. I composed 10 new tweets, one to each account, and since narcolepsy (a condition such that one is chronically drowsy) is a widely discussed topic in the world of sleep study, I kept my questions specific to the risks of that disorder (Could it be dangerous to fall asleep uncontrollably? In which situations could it be the most dangerous, e.g. driving? Swimming?) and the two aforementioned scientists responded gamely and thoroughly. Dr. Bender said “It would have to be the somewhat unpredictable nature of the sleep attacks which can occur during any activity and any time of day,” and Dr. Grandner said “Some “dangerous” risks are very rare. Most reasonable would be severe impairments in daily functioning. Extreme sleepiness on its own can cause decreased ability to focus and pay attention and even maintain consciousness.” To achieve such a detailed response, I had to continue my conversation with Dr. Grandner, and we formally corresponded until my interrogative attitude was spent.

After thanking them both, I reflected. Even though only a fifth of the people I contacted responded, I managed to get all my questions answered, and thoroughly. Although I am interested in narcolepsy, and sleep health in general, I did not base my topic of study on my Genius Hour project, which is focused on relieving stress. I guess one could suss out a connection between the two, but I largely diverged from my project to just get some good Q & A on another subject. So, in short, their answers don’t really help me, but I still found use for them in my mind.

In the future, these results help my understand an interest of mine, but they don’t directly benefit my existence at ISD in particular. Maybe, if I do a future project on sleep health, I could use this as additional information. Also, reaching across cyberspace to gain knowledge from experts looks swell in a college essay.

Until next time, Twitter…

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