The concept of “6 degrees of separation,” coined in 1929, results from the idea people know only 44 people on a first name basis, and each of those people knows 44 unique people. Mathematically speaking, no one person is more than six steps from Kim Kardashian or a New Zealand sheepshearer. The worldwide adoption of social media shrinks this number.
In 2011, Facebook analyzed user data, finding 4.74 degrees of separation is closer to the truth.
Platforms like Twitter allow a user to communicate with direct and indirect connections, and in certain cases with complete strangers whose tweets surface due to a like, retweet, or reply by an acquaintance. In short, a user need not be directly connected with another user in order to engage with them. This dynamic allows even the most underserved student to connect with professors from schools like MIT and Harvard.
This article explores the top twenty-three socially connected professors on Twitter. All educators listed are U.S.-based, have active accounts, and have large followings. Each field of study is limited to five representatives. Since Twitter hosts a large number of established law professors, restricting the number within that discipline granted a voice to professors in other academic areas.
As an adjunct professor at San Jose State and Golden Gate University, Brito teaches Social Media Marketing and Business Communications. A majority of tweets center around data-driven storytelling and media strategy, making his feed a must for his students. His Twitter feed paints a picture of an approachable marketer and sports fan who responds to followers, often in a jovial manner.
Like many of the professors mentioned above, Brynjolfsson gathers and shares amazing content from all over the internet, in his case catering to students of IT and digital natives. This Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy frames articles from his informed perspective on the digitally-driven economic evolution. Want to learn about Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods and what Brynjolfsson believes will result? Check Twitter. Curious on his thoughts on MIT projects? Check Twitter. Brilliant reads.
Despite the gravitas of being a professor at Harvard Business School, Christensen mixes in a substantial amount of lightheartedness on Twitter. Sure, mostly he tweets about teaching, or retweets about business, but then pops up an image of Christensen with his arms stretched wide, measuring the wingspan of the Olympic swimmer, Michael Phelps. Christensen’s playful nature keeps followers reading and learning.
Antonei Csoka is an Assistant Professor, Dept. of Anatomy, Howard University, commonly tweeting about stem cells and epigenetics (the study of biological mechanisms which switch genes off and on). Despite this intro, even novices in anatomy or genetics latch onto Csoka’s feed. Articles about the brain’s ability to selectively recruit stem cells or research on blocking the effect of aging of bones and muscles draw in readers. This feed guarantees to deliver knowledge.
As co-founder and editor at large of CityLab, as well as a Global Research Professor, Florida studies people and cities. Florida offers eye-opening articles from topics on “regional unemployment” to the effect of urban “heat islands” on health. Beyond scholarly articles Florida interacts with the crowd endearingly, promoting ideas and encouraging others to reach their full potential.
Tweeting from the University of Nevada-Reno, the owner of the @GrammarGirl handle lives up to her name. This New York Times Best Seller uses a variety of methods to educate others on grammar. Want to learn the differences of until, till, and ‘til? Check out Fogarty’s #573 podcast. Need to brush up on how to use apostrophes? Look no further than Fogarty’s blog. On top of providing so many venues for sharing her knowledge, she is incredibly approachable, often responding to questions on Twitter. If you are unsure about the proper use of an Oxford comma, give Fogarty a read, and maybe a tweet.
As an adjunct professor at Stanford and board-certified plastic surgeon, Furnas brings a lot of wisdom to the table. Tweets encompass her love of art, her knowledge of plastic surgery, and her concerns about issues facing female healthcare professionals - such as burnout. Furnas’ Twitter feed leaves followers feeling encouraged and educated.
Marc Lamont Hill more than earns a spot on this list. This Temple University professor of Media Studies and Urban Education is also an author, BET Host and CNN commentator. Despite what is assuredly a busy schedule, Hill takes care and consideration to challenge and respond to people in the Twitterverse.
This law professor at Biola University is also a New York Times best-selling author, and it shows. His feed will consume hours of scrolling and clicking. Hirsen frames a variety of current events from his point of view giving readers his perspective on what is happening in the world today. Hirsen portrays authenticity by citing and sharing a blend of memes and articles, allowing followers to receive a well-rounded view.
Don’t be fooled by the illustrated profile image, Lawrence Lessig is a hard-hitting member of the Twitter community advocating against injustice. Recently, this law professor from Harvard Law has been championing the cause of a 29-year-old conservation biologist Diego Gomez, prosecuted for sharing information online for educational purposes. Lessig is responsive and will not hesitate to enter into a conversation.
Massimino’s 1.36 million followers are privy to the former NASA astronaut’s incredibly engaging tweets on space, STEM, and science. Teaching mechanical engineering at Columbia University, Mike Massimino is a former NASA astronaut with two missions into space under his belt. Massimino earned his BS at Columbia before continuing to MIT for a Masters.
Using the hashtag #TCOT (top conservatives on Twitter), Matthews, a law professor at Charlotte School of Law, curates news for followers -- giving a glimpse of what how #TCOT think. Framing current events from terrorist attacks to responses on “Wonder Woman,” Matthews is unapologetic in his views. Like many polarizing figures, Matthew’s followers share many of his views, often retweeting them, liking and responding.
Tweeting from Stanford University, this Political Science professor’s resume includes being an ambassador to Russia as well as serving as the Special Assistant to the President at The National Security Council from 2009-2012. McFaul engages with followers, diving into conversations about politics and current events. It’s easy to forget McFaul teaches at one of the nation’s most prestigious universities while getting caught in the active dialogue. McFaul also adds a touch of humor from time to time, recently congratulating graduates by saying, “You are always a member of #NerdNation!”
Be prepared to lose a minimum of 30 minutes of time scrolling through George Mentz, JD’s feed. This amazingly active account contains tantalizing posts on a myriad of subjects from the FBI investing reports of a dirty bomb in South Carolina to an article a man who underwent surgery removing 28 pounds of fecal matter. On top of curating these head-turning stories, Mentz is initiating conversations on a variety of topics with others on Twitter. Mentz teaches at and runs Global Academy of Finance & Management Certification and Education Institute Worldwide - with the stated goal of raising educational standards in business and management.
Nestle’s feed on nutrition and the state of the food industry is eye-opening. Articles include infographics on the amount of meat the United States consumes, the obesity epidemic, and tips on navigating food labels. Even students who aren’t studying nutrition will enjoy the articles Nestle serves up.
The former mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter’s tweets carry substantial weight, garnering tons of engagement with each post. Nutter draws from his knowledge and background to inform many of his tweets, and his down to earth voices rings loud and clear as he speaks against social injustice or applauds an African American filmmaker.
Well-rounded Antonio Paris is not only a noted Planetary Scientist and Astrophysics Professor at St. Petersburg College,, but also a dedicated zombie watcher, who according to his Twitter bio is prepping for the zombie apocalypse while chasing aliens on “cheesy TV shows.” Paris’ feed is jam-packed with entertainment. Tweets include amazing photos of planetary phenomena, selfies of Paris preparing for a reggae party, and more. Paris is so completely authentic, readers can’t help but engage - explaining the large volume of shares and comments.
This marketing professor from Florida International University offers a gentle balance of curated articles, images from daily adventures, and inspirational quotes. Through Twitter, she provides a running commentary on the state of digital marketing, and also liberally uses gifs as a way to catch the reader’s eye - often pairing them with related content - which differentiates her to an extent from others on this list.
Professor Roubini teaches economics at Stern School. Scrolling through Roubini’s Twitter profile only reinforces his passion for economics. Most the his content is curated, and provides various perspectives on economic growth. Sprinkled throughout his feed are comical pieces as well, such as the retweeted image of a sign in Europe from Ian Bremmer asking for “All Americans to be accompanied by an adult.”
Are you looking for a quick digest of current events? University of Memphis’ Steven Soifer’s feed provides an excellent briefing through his social work lens. The content on his feed touches on politics, technology, and even living conditions in China.
As a professor of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University, it’s no surprise Lee Strobel is the author of books like The Case for Christ, which has since turned into a motion picture. What is surprising is how responsive Strobel is to his followers. Strobel’s feed is brimming with shout outs to students, responses to fans, and even dad jokes like - “A cluster of clowns is known as a ‘giggle.’ (no joke!)”
Professor of Islamic Studies at Southern Methodist University, Suleiman spends time on Twitter promoting social equality and uniting people of different faiths for the sake of peace. Twitter also serves as the perfect venue to share links to his video series on faith, offering candid insight for non-Muslims. As part of his commitment to being a leader in the community, Suleiman spoke at a peaceful protest in Dallas, Texas calling for an end to police brutality.
Looking for an inspirational feed to boost self-confidence? Ari Sytner uses Twitter to blast feel-good tips on connecting with others, fostering love in relationships, as well as encouraging kidney donation. In addition to being a therapist, Sytner teaches Community Leadership at Yeshiva and Social Work at Wurzweiler Graduate School of Social Work.
This Social Justice professor’s account is one to watch. Wolf passionately explores current events, ranging from tweets bringing attention to a female Yemeni scientist who has overcome significant obstacles, to those supporting the LGBTQ community at Pride. The professor’s FBI experience lends credibility to his statements on war, Russia, and international human rights. Wolf believes in positive change, and it’s infectious. He’s also running for U.S. Congress in 2018, hoping to represent the people of Illinois.