Social media: what is it good for?


For better or worse, I am the only person in my department who engages regularly in social media. Blogging here, reading other blogs (and occasionally commenting), chatting on twitter…over the last year or so these have become regular activities for me. So for our informal seminar series, I decided to talk about using social media as a scientist.

Personally, I’m not sure how I managed before. The benefits of engaging on these platforms have been numerous. Just off the top of my head I’ve been able to:

  • ask questions and have experts in the field answer
  • make new friends
  • broaden my perspective beyond my own field/research
  • make new professional connections
  • receive support and encouragement (which can be especially important pre-tenure track position)
  • find new ideas for research
  • learn from others experiences
  • get advice on how to be a more effective scientist/teacher
  • understand that I’m really and truly not alone in most struggles (getting that grant, being a parent, living with uncertainty of what comes next, being a woman in science, understanding Swedes, and the list goes on…..)
  • engage in discussions that are interesting and important to me
  • learn from others discussions via comment threads/twitter feeds
  • learn to write more quickly and concisely (and practice, practice, practice)
  • have the freedom to write in a more conversational way
  • keep up to date on major scientific happenings
  • receive feedback on my writing and ideas in a completely different and more immediate way than the journal review process

And these are the benefits I came up with without thinking too hard about it. Next week I’ll share these thoughts on what I’ve gained from engaging as well as those of others on how to use social media effectively.

Any suggestions on how to convince my department that social media can be a good thing? What is social media good for in your career?

6 thoughts on “Social media: what is it good for?

  1. All of the examples you give are good and valid but they are all focused on what you personally get out of social media. What about the way that your academic peers and wider society benefits from having a scientist engaged in promoting their own work to both professional and non-professional audiences?

  2. Jeff–so true! One of the main motivations of writing here is the hope that there are benefits for others. I’m delighted when I receive feedback that I’ve hit that goal at least for that person. In this (as many things) I probably need to learn to be better at promoting myself.

  3. It would be very interesting to look at the correlation between some metric of social media/web presence and standardized citation rate/h-index for a sample of EEB scientists to see what impact (if any) it has on that aspect of careers.

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