I extracted and set aside this subsection from a larger piece surveying academic twitter.

At lab meeting a few months ago, we brainstormed a list of academic objectives for social media use:

  • helping other people feel not alone/creating more positive work culture
  • staying aware of relevant papers
  • helping others become aware of your relevant papers
    • (get those citations, dawg)
  • building connections/networking
    • collaborators for projects
    • getting people to extend your work
  • getting feedback on work
  • finding job opportunities
  • finding funding opportunities
  • asking questions
  • public engagement
  • show “we’re real people”
  • recruiting more people into science
  • influencing public policy

Personally, I’ve found the most rewarding part of using social media as an academic has been unexpected encounters with interesting & useful people. I’ve got four neat stories to share in that department. By sharing these stories, I hope to counter the discouraging notion that success on academic social media necessitates lots of likes or followers.

🔗 Find an Open-Source Contributor

Last spring, on a lark I built a Singularity container to compile LaTeX with a [novelty font](https://sansforgetica.rmit/]. The awesome @vsoch (twitter bio: I’m the Vanessasaurus!) reached out out of nowhere and helped set up a Docker build and CircleCI tests for the project. Her contributions were an awesome learning experience, and collaborating with someone you just bumped in to was so. much. fun.

Chance connections can have staying power. Last spring I got an email from @vsoch trying to track down the source of a glitch I had run into on the awesome Singularity Hub. I look forward to the next time we cross paths!

I tweeted a fun graphic at a PI I had done ant-behavior modeling with…

… and it turned out that one of his followers was the original creator of the Wikipedia graphic I had extended. I guess the French academic mafia rolls tight.

🔗 Career Networking

As another one-off project, I spent a few days fiddling with checkpoint-restart in Singularity containers. Basically, I smooshed together two pre-existing projects and then commented out the lines that thew errors. (A+ quality cargo cult programming!) Once I got it (minimaly) working, I tweeted it out.

To my surprise, a few hours I got a direct message from the CEO of Sylabs, the Singularity project’s spin-off start-up company. It turns out that checkpointing containers was an objective their development road map.

A direct message from Gregory Kurtzer. A direct message from Gregory Kurtzer, CEO of Sylabs.

I ended up meeting with one of their remote employees to learn more about the company. In another fun small world miracle, it turned out that that guy knew my brother from a funk concert festival in California!

🔗 Connect with a Like-minded Creative

Last summer, I came across some yucky graffiti on the Lansing River Trail park. When I came back a few weeks later, it was still up so I decided to do something about it.

Researching the idea, I came across an Irish graphic designer who had used satirical interpretive labels to call out lazy workplace maintenance.

So, I tweeted at him! Hearing back from him was actually really fun, plus I got some graphic design advice out of it!

🔗 The Dark Side?

The dark side, of course, of social media is that it is engineered to maximize the amount of time you spend there by getting you hooked. My esteemed colleague @amlalejini describes his approach to academic social media like temporarily stepping into a conference. Holding on to the idea of stepping out, not being on the hook 24/7, helps him balance the amount of time he spends there and feel like he isn’t generating more work for himself.

I think that’s healthy.

🔗 Let’s Chat!

What are the most unexpected and/or rewarding interactions that you’ve had on social media? What have you gotten out of using social media as an academic?

I started a twitter thread (right below) so we can chat :phone: :phone: :phone: … I know y’all got stories!!!