How to navigate the changing social media landscape as a researcher

Eva Lantsoght
6 jun ’24

Over the past few years, I have written a fair number of posts about how we can communicate our science via social media. When I was a PhD student, I learned a lot about research and managing research on Twitter. Unfortunately, that is not the case anymore.

Twitter became X and many scientists left, so my old advice on how to use Twitter as a scientist may be a bit outdated. I stayed, but only as a news source in Ecuador (and to check updates about the power outages and other local issues). Instagram now shows an ad for pretty much every other post. Facebook is long since past its prime. I’m unsure about how LinkedIn is changing as a result of the changing social media landscape. ResearchGate was quite popular in 2019, but seems to have stalled. And, I decided after joining Instagram (in 2012) that I would not join any additional social network, so I don’t have Snapchat nor TikTok nor Mastodon nor any other Twitter replacement (nor Threads). I’m also less active on socials overall.

Regardless of my current skepticism on social media for scientists, I think there are a few general questions we can ask ourselves to identify if a social network is bringing us the networking benefits we are interested in, and to consider in our way of managing these media:

  • Do I get the opportunity to engage with other scientists in my field as well as in other fields? If we are alone on a social media platform, or if we don’t get the opportunity to engage and discuss with others, then we are missing the “social” aspect in the first place. So, if you want to use Instagram for communicating your science, but your entire feed consists of home renovation accounts, then maybe it is time to consider how you are using the platform.

  • Do I frequently come across interesting information? Do you learn something from the time spent on the platform? Do you get value out of it? Is it relevant to your research or your academic path in general? If so, you have a good indication that you have found a place where you can find your tribe, than the next step is to engage in the discussions.

  • Do I frequently come across information that upsets me? On the other hand, if you feel irritated on a platform by the number of ads, hate speech, or other forms of unfiltered information that upsets you, then maybe you need to evaluate for yourself if you can separate the wheat from the chaff by setting filters, blocking accounts, and taking other actions. If that is not a solution, or if you start feeling negative about the platform, other scientists probably will start sharing your feelings and leave the platform.

  • Do I enjoy the time that I spend on this platform? Ultimately, does it spark joy, in Konmari terms. Do you have a positive experience on the platform? Do you enjoy the user experience? If we are going to give our eyeball time to a tech company, at least the user experience should be worth the trade-off.

  • Do I feel drained after checking the website? Last but not least: a gut check. If you tend to go down a time-draining scrolling session on the platform, and you feel drained afterwards, then it is time to change your habits. It may be time for setting limits to your use, identifying clearly what you want to get out of your use of the platform and sticking to your plan without going down the scrolling rabbit hole, or it may be time for a complete detox.

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