How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace Social Media…for Science!

If you told me last year that not only would I have several profiles on social media networks dedicated to my research and science communication, but that I would also have hundreds of followers and readers, I would laugh in your face. After all, I’m the sort of person who will immediately delete a new profile photo on Facebook if no one Likes it. Why would I think anyone wants to read what I have to say?

Well, a surprising amount, that’s for sure.

There are actually many upsides to putting yourself “out there” through social media. Tools such as “hashtags” on Twitter allow you to locate your specific communities of researchers in your field – I can’t tell you how useful it has been to tag questions under #zooarchaeology or #archaeology and have that specific Twitter community come to my rescue! Plus, it’s nice to make friends and connections in your own field, as you never know what sort of opportunities can come from people you interact with (my favourite example from my personal experience? getting a fellow zooarchaeologist to send me a dead chicken for my reference collection…yeah, really).

Speaking of opportunities…it doesn’t just have to be within your own field. A year ago I would have never thought about the possibility of becoming a science communicator, but through platforms like Twitter and Instagram, I’ve now found myself constantly writing articles for various websites (such as the fabulous The Female Scientist) these days! It’s easy to find calls for guest writers on the Internet, which may be useful if you’re just starting out and want to flex your writing skills. I’ve also been able to participate in interdisciplinary conferences, join large research organisations, and even land a science communication volunteer job through my Internet presence! Keep an open mind (and some open eyes) and you never know what you may find – although also make sure to look out for predatory publishers and scammers that unfortunately like to prey on early academics and scientists. I’ve been nearly duped before!

And finally, if you’re anything like me, you might have a brain filled with ideas for papers and presentations and books and articles – but no real outlet. Having a website or a blog has been a great way for me to write about things that interest me that might not be considered “publishable material” by others – this has varied from analysis of things in popular culture through my particular research lens, to more personal posts about issues near and dear to my heart, such as mental health issues.

Many young scientists and early career researchers probably have the same sort of negative thought – what’s the point of promoting myself if no one cares? And yet, think back to when you were a child…did you have someone in science you looked up to? Or perhaps a mentor that you were able to turn to when you needed help in academia? Giving yourself more visibility and taking up more space is not only a positive thing you can do for your own confidence and self-esteem, but you may also find yourself being someone else’s mentor or inspiration.

There will always be naysayers and trolls that might pop up now and again, but stand strong. I promise that there’s a wonderful community of scientists and academics out there who are ready to welcome you with open arms – and helpful advice!