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I don't have social apps since the pandemic because I considered it disturbing to my mind and a way where to I was wasting too much time.

Now, I'm starting master degree. I attended a conference and some people asked to me for my instagram/facebook accounts, I just can share my email and phone number, like the seniors researchers, but people looked upset.

Are social media a true way to create networking? It's hard to me to imagine asking for a project or collaboration by this way, haha.

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    You're here, aren't you? OT: "Who ordered the chopped liver?" :-)
    – Fe2O3
    Commented Apr 29 at 13:31
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    What is your field?
    – user187020
    Commented Apr 29 at 15:21
  • Please avoid posting answers in the comments. Short answers posted as answers are okay, but if your answer isn't worthy of being put in the answer box, it's definitely not worthy of being in the comments where it will leapfrog all the other answers and be immune to downvotes.
    – cag51
    Commented Apr 30 at 14:27
  • @cag51 wait, are you saying that leapfrogging other answers and being immune to downvotes is bad? It sure sounds desirable ;). Maybe that's the problem.
    – DonQuiKong
    Commented Apr 30 at 17:29
  • @DonQuiKong: haha, yeah. The SE model is that a lot of stuff (including exchanges like this one) should go in "chat," but chat is not very visible and it's not easy to create a chat room, so it's natural to abuse comments. And some stacks are stricter than others about policing the comments, which adds to the confusion. Anyway...I'll delete this exchange in a few hours, let's take the rest of this conversation to Academia Chat or meta.
    – cag51
    Commented Apr 30 at 17:40

5 Answers 5

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Unfortunately in my field (ecology) twitter is a primary means for communicating: Conference announcements, new publications, interesting workshops, etc. At some point you will need to be on there. If not, you will miss a lot. I begrudgingly reopened my twitter account after i missed some very important conference announcements...

That being said, i treat social media like work emails. I keep a small list of researchers/organizations i follow, then only check my feed every few days for important announcements. I feel no pressure to be "daily active" on these platforms or let it invade my personal life.

Lastly, you can view social media as a archive of your work that is accessible to the general public. If you put out an announcement for each paper you publish, journalists or organizations may find you in a google search.

Added note: Most colleagues i know treat it the same as I do. We're all on social media because its necessary, but most of us hate social media... So almost all posts from people i follow are infrequently made and are work-related.

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  • Is it really that important? Don't all relevant institutes also offer mailing lists? The only social media tool I ever used was FaceBook and I deleted my account there more than a decade ago. I've never felt the need since. I get announcements by email or word of mouth. My field is biology/bioinformatics.
    – terdon
    Commented Apr 29 at 11:36
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    @terdon disciplines differ. If your discipline no longer uses ancient technology like smoke signals, snail mail, or email, then there is nothing you can do... Commented Apr 29 at 13:25
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    @terdon As another ecologist, Twitter/X has consistently been my most efficient resource for keeping up with things going on in my field and growing the number of people who see my work. A very useful aspect is that I follow people who will generally retweet/share useful things from other people that I never would have seen otherwise. But I'm very restrictive in who I follow, and I have plugins to eliminate most ads, trending stuff, etc, so I mostly see just what I want to see and manage to avoid most of the negative stuff.
    – anjama
    Commented Apr 29 at 20:15
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    That said, ecology might be one of the most interdisciplinary and collaborative fields, so there's a very high value to networking that might not exist to the same degree in other fields. Plus, many ecologists like to have a public social media presence for conservation outreach and education purposes with non-ecologists
    – anjama
    Commented Apr 29 at 20:22
  • @terdon from what i see... Social media is far more prioritized over email newsletters. I missed a well known conference because they never made a mailing list, and i never saw their important twitter announcements (which they did not post on their website). After this... I decided i had to get back on twitter.
    – RTbecard
    Commented Apr 30 at 18:35
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I am sure answers will reflect a range of opinions. Clearly, it is perfectly possible to have a successful career and stay off social media. It's also possible to harm your career by being on social media, either because it harms your mental health, or it becomes a time sink, or you post things that cause others to think less of you. In an extreme case, a professor could even lose tenure over a foolish social media post.

In some fields, there is a strong twitter culture for disseminating results (and sometimes stimulating discussion). I know people in economics, statistics, and data science who used twitter this way. I have never done anything on twitter and I don't know if those folks are still doing the same now that it's X.

I am unaware of any scientific fields where instagram is used to disseminate results or host discussions. But one could imagine it would be valuable in the arts.

My social media of choice is Facebook. I have used it to disseminate research and for sure it has led to collaborations, to people citing me, and to people teaching me things. For example, I recently posted about a talk I was scheduled to give, and that post led more people to show up, who otherwise wouldn't have known about it. It also led to a researcher in Germany responding to my post to make me aware of a paper I didn't know about, which was very relevant to the talk and to the research I was presenting. Overall, it seems to me that the pros outweigh the cons. But, I'm speaking as someone who already has strong safeguards in place regarding my mental health (e.g., daily meditation practice) and who frequently blocks Facebook during certain hours of the day, so that I am not tempted to check it. If my only reason for being on it was to disseminate research, then it's not clear that the pros would outweigh the cons. I like it for other reasons, like staying in touch with friends in far flung places, and sharing my photos and stories when I travel. Facebook has also led to speaking invitations, when friends realize I'm nearby and invite me to speak in their local seminar.

Another form of networking that you might prefer is LinkedIn. That's another way to disseminate your work, learn about jobs, and lightly keep up with others in a professional way (e.g., someone you met at a conference finished her PhD at Harvard and is now a postdoc at Yale). But it's probably less addictive, less of a time sink, and less culture of people sharing things that are entirely unrelated to their jobs, or sharing things that can get them in trouble.

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    Yes, if getting only one for professional reasons, I would recommend Linkedin. IMO Linkedin looks more serious than Facebook or Instagram, although since they too make a business of selling your personal information, be cautious of what you share there.
    – gerrit
    Commented Apr 29 at 8:05
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In a nutshell: LinkedIn, yes; Twitter (X), maybe; Instagram, that's completely personal.

Now, needless to say, LinkedIn is a professional networking platform by design, so you just should be on it. You don't need to actually engage much or even check it often, but it's good to maintain an up-to-date profile and connect with people you know. In case that you are not 100% sure you're going into academia full time, many corporate recruiters discover talent on LinkedIn, and not being on LinkedIn is sort of just giving up free professional publicity. It's low engagement and relatively high reward, so highly recommended and sort of necessary.

Twitter (now X) is a text-based microblogging platform where people can share their recent papers, conference calls, even advertise for jobs, etc. It's basically a more lightweight version of blogs, which many academics maintain professionally. Now, in many areas, these things are often shared on mailing lists, so Twitter is not strictly necessary, but if they aren't then maybe you'll need it. Just check it once in a while. If you keep a personal Twitter (X) account, then of course it is generally a good idea to keep it separate from your work account (and I'd recommend that you don't use your real name or easily identifiable identity for a strictly personal account).

But I have never heard of anyone using Instagram in a professional context (unless they are an musician, artist, model, etc., of course). First, it's a very smartphone-centric platform, and as such not really suited for professional environments. Also, it is very image- rather than text-based, and is a horrible platform for circulating conference calls or new papers, etc.

Finally I'd like to mention Discord and Zulip. They are interest-based forums, so each Zulip space or Discord server is created for a specific purpose, and discussion is separated by topic, so they're closer to modernized and streamlined versions of mailing lists than general SNS sites. Many academic Zulip spaces/Discord servers exist, and I highly recommend joining those that lie in your areas of interest.

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The variety of answers should reflect the variety of relevant cultures across different fields.

In my field (math) social media is essentially unused and you would have no need of it professionally.

I have friends in statistics and so on where most major results are announced in twitter first, and then in more professional venues sometime later, and discoverability is hard. You may miss things if you're not on twitter; you may have trouble getting the word out about your results; you may find out too late about interesting conferences or whatever. I have colleagues in genetics and they absolutely publicize their new methods and algorithms and so on on twitter first. I find it strange, but the system works.

I have seen LinkedIn used to further your career but it's mostly a sort of interactive resume; while it is more "professional" in a sense, I've actually never heard of anyone successfully using it for serious professional work that isn't related to finding a job. I might just not run in the right circles, though.

Since this is so field -- and perhaps microculture -- dependent, the simple answer is to talk to other people in your field. Ask them if they use social media for work, and if so, how. Twitter? Facebook? Instagram? I have trouble imagining people using TikTok professionally, but maybe they do. What safeguards do they use to avoid it becoming a drain on their time and mental health? Who do they follow? How do they present themselves?

Start cautiously by imitating someone who is already successful, then find your own path.

(And, perhaps, you will discover your field doesn't use it in a serious way, and you can skip the whole ordeal, which would be lovely)

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Now, I'm starting master degree. I attended a conference and some people asked to me for my instagram/facebook accounts, I just can share my email and phone number, like the seniors reseachers, but people looked upset.

Instagram and Facebook are fine for personal social media to follow up on people you know, but in all my years doing conferences, you should only be worried about linkedin. On the one hand, if you are adverse to it you can simply use it during conference season, and for the rest of the time disable notifications or disable the app altogether. When conference is around the corner, if you have work to present, make a quick post, people interested will see it and try to connect, and at the end just delete. Rinse and repeat.

It will depend strongly on what you prefer for communications, but if people are really interested about your work, e-mail is sufficient, and they will follow-up by e-mail if there is actual interest.

For other, more personal social media, some people keep a "professional" instagram accounts to share their work, but in my opinion it is so tasking to show what you are doing, on top of doing what you actually do, that I strongly disavow it, if you are already not keen of social media.

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