Social media and social networking have become pervasive in our culture, and the scientific community is not immune. There are articles about how Twitter can enhance your scientific networks and lead to collaborations and jobs, enhance outreach and public engagement, and even can play a major role in publishing and distributing your scientific publications. There are papers laying out guidelines for live-tweeting conferences, and Twitter was where the most discussion happened, compared to other popular social networking sites. But there are a lot of opportunities to connect with other scientists and share your research online other than twitter. Facebook is of course an option, but in my experience (which is reflected in a study presented by the Nature Publishing group last year) it is not really used for professional networking. LinkedIn is of course an option, as is ResearchGate, which is similar to LinkedIn but allows you to more easily highlight and share your papers. There are also Academia.edu and Mendeley, and now a new site called Kudos, which apparently bring all of these different sites together onto your kudos profile.
Am I the only one who is a bit overwhelmed by all of these choices? Do I need to be on all of these platforms to be successful, or do I need to choose one and put all of my energy into maintaining that profile? How much time should I be spending maintaining an online presence and building an online social network? What is the appropriate way to interact with colleagues you’ve never met in person but have interacted with online? How important is it to promote your own papers in order to get cited and increase the visibility of your work? The questions go on and on, and there’s always the risk of doing something that will cost you job opportunities in the future or that will make enemies in your field.
I don’t think these problems and questions are unique to the world of science, but I don’t have another perspective to take. My choices so far have been to diversify, not spend too much time on any one platform, and to be as professional as possible anywhere public on the internet. What do you think? Do social media and networking play an important role in the modern scientific process? What is the best approach to take when entering the scientific community and are grappling with all of these new networking platforms? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!