Scientists @ Twitter

It’s the new year and that means my days are numbered . It’s a sad fact of PhD life and it comes with its own set of challenges – just when you were getting used to the one’s you’ve already got!

You’re writing your thesis and you’re bored of reading Smith et al (2015) for the tenth time, trying to figure out why you did that experiment that was never going to work. It’s probably time you take a break. After all, they’re just as important as working. Except, every break you take is filled with a certain amount of guilt because you’re not doing anything constructive; although I would argue binge-watching The Office is constructive if you plan on working in one.

 Much like everything, who you know is just as important as what you’ve done. You’re a scientist now, you don’t want to go back to stacking shelves in Tesco at 3am, even though you’d get paid more than you currently do. You didn’t sacrifice all those evenings and weekends for nothing. Luckily for you it’s the 21st century and social media can be used for more than making memes out of your dinner.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter is a great tool for talking to people you don’t know. If you find someone that likes pugs as much as you, then follow them. The same rules apply for science. The first step is to put some relevant words into the search bar (assuming you have already signed up). It might help to put # before the word.

I’m not going to tell you what to search for because it’s probably not relevant to you. Start basic. A lot of edgy, cool scientists might add #science to their tweets because, well, I don’t need to explain scientists to you. Their uncomfortable geekiness is a great place to start. It’s vague so you might have to be a bit more specific, just not too specific. There’s only 140 characters and you don’t want to waste it on a massive hashtag.

If you’re interested in something you see, like or retweet it (you’ll find these options underneath the tweet). If you follow the tweet’s author, maybe they’ll follow you back. This gives you the opportunity to see things as they post them. Be careful not to follow too many people otherwise you might miss something good. I’d keep it under 500. It’s up to you how ‘professional’ to make your account. Some people keep it strictly business, whereas others (me included) will post about their life in general. Remember, even Nobel laureates can have cute pets. It’s going to take some effort to build up a network, but you’ve got the time because it’s not procrastinating, not really. The number one rule of being noticed is to get involved. Get involved in discussions. The @ function is useful in this case. Including others in your tweet can start a discussion. Show some initiative and it’ll pay off. PI’s are always going to need underlings and they might think of you.

My advice is to stay away from company twitter accounts. They just aren’t fun to follow. Keep it to personal accounts or even a lab group that you may be interested in, @SenorBadger. After all, this is about connecting with real people, not faceless corporations. Social media is also an excellent form of outreach. PI’s are being gently pushed into this century with grant success being helped by an active social media channel, communicating their work to Joe Public, because he’s the one that keeps the lights on. Obviously, you still need to be good at interviewing (that’s another problem), but it can’t hurt to gently suggest to your twitter network that you’re about to hand in your thesis and will need a job before you become homeless.

 Twitter doesn’t have to be a scary beast for you to tame. It’s just like LinkedIn, but people actually use it. Don’t be scared to mix posts about your personal life with science. Maybe keep the swearing to a minimum, but I would encourage the use of gifs. Who doesn’t like a gif?




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