Last year, with the aim to promote myself professionally, I decided to turn this website in a diary of my PhD experience and tell about the good and the bad of this journey. I started sharing my blog post about life beyond PhD and marketing yourself on LinkedIn, Facebook student groups and Twitter with a modest response. I struggled a lot to find my community and reach out to the people who were interested in my writing. Many find it odd to take grad school advice from someone who is still in grad school but as my professor told me
WE CAN LEARN FROM ANYONE, EVEN FROM THE MASTER OR UNDERGRAD STUDENTS IN THE LAB. STAY HUMBLE
I never liked to push my content online and this is when I learned about hashtag to reach out to people who are interested. More importantly, I underestimated the power of a new social platform, Instagram. We think that this space is only for fashion bloggers and footballers and whoever wants to show off. This is true but don’t forget that social media are algorithms. You get out what you throw in. They suggest people or pages to follow according to your research and people who you already follow.
I use Instagram for science communication, talk about chemistry, my PhD experience and some of the things that I love about my PhD and doctoral training and the mentality I totally dislike in academia.
Did I learn something from my experience on social media or is this just a waste of time?
Yes and no. There are pros and cons and this is up to the individual and the use ones does of this social platforms.
- SOCIAL MEDIA FOR SCICOMM TAKES LOADS OF TIME. If you ever think that I made it in one day just because I look cool, you are making a big mistake. Any post takes loads of thinking and research. Most of the things I say are outside my niche and area of research. It takes time to learn and put down on paper complicated stuff and make them digestible to a lay audience.
- SOCIAL MEDIA EXPOSE YOU TO CRITICISM. Don’t believe for a second that everyone loves me and my activities. I get loads of criticism to put my honest and blunt opinion forward. I talk about controversial issues such as the toxic mentality of academia (success = struggle), the problem of mental health which is very personal to me, sexual harassment and encouraging more women in science. Most of the things I say are don’t fit the general consensus and I get loads of negativity either on social media and real life.
- SOCIAL MEDIA MADE ME A BETTER SCIENTIST. I honestly learned a lot from other people and their experience. Science isn’t only your niche and research. Science is everything. Maths, Physics, Biology etc I love learning about the brain and how it works, for example. I love looking at pics of fluorescence and petri dishes.
Most importantly I learned that science is fact and evidence and not personal opinions!
- SOCIAL MEDIA HELPS YOU GROW YOUR PROFESSIONAL NETWORK. I lost count of all the people I made friends with through social media. Women and men in STEM, scientists who are enthusiastic about science communication and sustainability, I reconnected with schoolmates, eitheir from high school and university. I contributed to the creation of important network such as the ph_d_epression community, The SciCommunity and the girlswhobond website. Not to mention all the job offers that I get but can’t take because I need to finish my PhD
- SOCIAL MEDIA EXPOSE YOU TO HARASSMENT. I think I stopped count of all the unwelcomed messages I got on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn too (seriously guys, LinkedIn in a professional platform). Do take into account and don’t freak out, you can block people any time.
- SOCIAL MEDIA ARE ADDICTIVE. Yes, the truth is that I am addicted and I can’t help looking at notifications. Notification and likes trigger the release of dopamine in your brain and the effect you get is the same as you have sex or eating junk food. Tons of research also show that social media are bad for your health. You might wake up in the middle of the night to check notifications, suffer from poor self-esteem when comparing yourself to others and get more and more isolated.
- BEFORE EMBRACING SOCIAL MEDIA HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. Don’t freak out when you see big accounts. You don’t know what’s behing it. People might have paid to increase their traffic, bought their followers or being an influencer is their full time job. Success is hard work and doesn’t come overnight. Please do not forget it.
To finish off, I get loads of criticism for my social media activity. People think that I should spend more time in the lab that on my website. Fair enough. But don’t forget that outside my PhD and social media, I don’t do anything else. I don’t socialise much, I don’t go out on weekends and don’t spend my time clubbing and drinking. Last year, I made the decision to invest my time and afford on myself and my career. I decided that the time to play and behave like a high school kid was over and wanted a better future for myself. This is isn’t a game, it’s a serious business. It is an investment for the future.
Please do not take any of my words personally and if you have something to say, please come and talk to me. Thanks