When students reach masters level they often don’t have much patience for any lectures that aren’t fully focused on their degree, but the lectures that seem to have strange titles can often be the little gems that you truly remember long after you heard them. One in particular that stood out in my mind was a lecture entitled ‘Social Media for Scientists’ by Dr Stacey DeAmicis. People are often warned to be careful about what they post on social media, and they are right to be, but what we aren’t told is how much social media is used in the world of science.
There is a whole range of social media platforms available now: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, YouTube, the list can keep on piling up. A key aim for scientists is to try and make their work accessible and understandable for the general public. Social media is a fantastic way to do that. It forces you to summarise your work and restricts how much can be shared, meaning that you cannot waffle and have to get straight to the point.
Social media can help you show your work to the world. Do you have an opinion on a paper you’ve read? Rosemary Redfield did, she disagreed with the results of a paper because of mistakes and errors made in the design of the experiment. She blogged about it and overnight her followers jumped from 100 to 20,000 all through the power of social media. You never know how far your comments, tweets or photos will go.
It has also become a key way for scientists to connect with each other. Twitter has enabled scientists to find fellow researchers across the globe and discuss new ideas informally. There is no longer a need for face to face introductions, through social media you can immediately find people with the same interests as you. What is especially good for students is you can chat with scientists high up in their field without feeling intimidated, or having to wait to be introduced to them at a conference. A simple # on your tweet can enable people to find you globally, it may be potential friends or potential employers, you never know who will see you.
Not everything you post online is going to be ground breaking and receive twenty million views, but every now and then you hit on something that truly does work. After the lecture on social media I decided to tweet these very blog posts, and shortly after I was contacted by a company asking me to be a guest blogger for them, talking about life as a Masters student. That would never have happened if I had simply uploaded my blog and not promoted it. Yes you feel guilty and a bit of a show off waving your work all over your social media pages, but when it creates opportunities like this one did it is completely worth it.
Just remember though anyone can see what you post online, be careful to not upset people as this could come back to haunt you. These are some interesting stats on how online comments have come back to haunt people, 14% of adults surveyed about online activities said they were fired from a job, lost out on getting a job, lost their university place and even were turned down for a mortgage just because of online posts. Also the internet never forgets, something that was posted five or ten years ago is still out there somewhere…
This lecture really highlighted how social media is a fantastic platform to get your work noticed from and get yourself noticed (hopefully in a good way). Next time your messaging your friends try looking up your lecturers or famous scientists you’d like to hear from. Keeping tabs on what is going on in the world of science can do nothing but improve your chances of a future in the field.