Do I have to join?

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.”

6 Replies to “Do I have to join?”

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience about social networks and whether or not to join. I too have been hesitant to participate because of the negative and harmful impact I have seen on individuals as a result of social media. It took me forever to create a Linkedin account and I only did it because I felt the platform fostered professionalism. I am now seeing how even this platform of blogging can be beneficial in the world of academia if used in a positive manner.

  2. I struggle with this feeling to. I currently don’t use any social media for professional connections as I just really don’t like social media all that much. I do worry frequently that I will be forced to create a professional social media presence in order to gain promotion in the academic realm as it seems to becoming the norm and trends in higher education. It concerns me when at the same time we see social media continuously being exploited for malicious ends.

  3. Thanks for sharing Yezi! I definitely had similar feelings to you about social media upon entering graduate school. It was definitely a shock when I found out that a lot of my professors and researchers in my field were using Twitter. This made me realize that social media isn’t only for social/personal purposes and it can even be a useful tool in academia.

  4. Thanks for sharing! A lot of the academics I personally know who are really embracing professional social media are from an older generation than me and getting into social networks outside of facebook for the first time when they start using twitter as part of their academic outreach. I feel like I’m definitely a lot more skeptical since I, like you, have made a conscious effort to scale back my social media usage and engagement in recent years.

    Anyways, I agree with your thoughts on the to-tweet-or-not-to-tweet dilemma. I think there’s a high potential for good outreach! But I’m also not sure I feel prepared to jump headfirst into twitter and make a positive difference, these days.

  5. I think that because social media use among professionals and academics is increasing, the line between personal and professional social media use has started to blur. I can completely understand a desire to keep social media accounts completely personal and private versus trying to integrate academic matters into your social media feed. These days, it seems like the decision to engage with social media is a personal decision that each person has to make for themself.

  6. Hi Yezi! I am also perplexed by the academic use of social media, and have been since I entered my master’s program. In undergrad, I deleted my social media from high school, making new personal accounts for my self expression. I was taken aback when I got to my master’s program and saw that academics particuarly use Twitter to talk about both their careers and personal lives. For myself, I like to create boundaries for myself, so that I do not have to focus solely on my work while I am trying to relax on a day off. I think that the decision to make a social media account is up to the individual, and that I would reccomend a seperation of work and personal life.

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