I started to train myself not to use that much of social networks since college, so when I started grad school, saw so many of my co-workers, graduate students and faculty from other departments using social networks to do outreach and public engagement, I was pretty lost.
I know of a fellow graduate student giving nutrition advice and debunking diet myths on Instagram, and through her wonderful work I got to know a bunch of other academics sharing science and correcting bad science through Instagram. I’ve never thought about Instagram as a medium for science – I share my amateur photography on my Instagram page, and I keep it private.
Not to mention Facebook and Twitter. I’m only using Facebook to connect with old friends but after entering grad school when scrolling down the webpage and going through different memes, I started coming across journal articles shared by my colleagues – I use social networks to get a break from work and I don’t need Facebook to remind me to read more papers.
But at the same time I kept wondering: should I embrace this academic social network thing? Should I use my social networks to talk about science as well? I am 100% up for public engagement, and I believe that we academics, people who are privileged enough to have this level of education most others don’t, have the responsibility to talk science in plain language to the public, to debunk myths, to be role models for women/POC/gender minorities, etc. However, as a millennial I’m already struggling a lot not to let social networks consume too much of my time or distract me from work. And when I got on WeChat, Instagram, or Facebook, I want that to be a place for me to relax. Do things that are not science related.
For this assignment, I read an article called A Defense of Academic Twitter. I never entered the world of Twitter because I found it terrifying and overwhelming, but I’ve known of many people, including a lot of faculty members in the geo department, are quite active on this platform. This article provides a good guide to why and how to use Twitter for academic purposes, and also very importantly, things to avoid. But most importantly, I feel reassured when I read this: “Even more than that, I am asked, ‘Do I have to join?’ The answer is no, you do not have to join.”