Most of us have heard of or experienced the negative consequences of using social media (yes, it can be very distracting!) but are there ways in which we can use it to our advantage? Below, I highlight some ways in which we can make social media more useful to us as grad students.

Building a Community

Other than reaching out to and staying connected with friends and acquaintances in our own cohort, social media is a great way to transcend your current geographical location and cast a wider net to connect with graduate students from other universities and sometimes, even from other countries. Knowing that there is a community of students experiencing similar highs and lows can mitigate feelings of isolation in grad school and potentially help combat your imposter syndrome.

Showcasing Your Ups and Downs

At first, you might feel that posting your successes online can seem too boastful. However, they deserve to be celebrated and can also be encouraging to others. Similarly, students who are similar to you might relate with and feel less disheartened when they learn about instances when you haven't been successful. By doing this, you potentially run into the risk of making yourself vulnerable to negative comments that people might post online, more so if you make it public. However, I've come across several instances where potential grad students, grad students, and even faculty have shared rejections and failures they have experienced in academia and have witnessed the incredible amount of support and encouragement they received from the academic community in response to their posts.

Staying Updated

If you follow people in your field, social media channels like Twitter might be a great way to keep yourself updated with new research. Fairly often published academic research might be stuck behind paywalls or because of the "file drawer effect," a lot of null results might not be published in academic journals. By following researchers directly, you might become privy to unpublished or recently published results of interest to you.

Social media can also be a great tool for professional development. Many labs and organizations post upcoming post-doc or job opportunities on social media. Connecting with and following people and organizations on LinkedIn might help you learn more about the job you would like to secure in the future.

Learning and Productivity

Social media is obviously not the most credible source of information when you're trying to cite your sources for a research paper. However, it can serve as a good starting point when you're looking for applications of your research (by learning about what the public thinks about your topic of interest) or are trying to pick up some generic skills like using certain software for data analyses or learning how to improve your communication skills for an upcoming job interview. Social media also makes it possible to learn productivity hacks from other PhD students. For example, I found an Instagram page of a PhD Student in Computer Science (@phdandproductivity) and her posts, YouTube videos, and notion template have been extremely helpful in being able to organize and manage several tasks and projects in an efficient way.

Mental Health Tips

If you can limit the time you spend on social media, it can sometimes be a welcome break from work. Some pages on Instagram, like @academeology, provide anonymous forums through which people can share both positive and negative experiences during grad school which can be cathartic for those who are sharing it but can also help others reading them learn from those experiences. They also share tips for coping with mental health difficulties. Other, more generic accounts, on social media can provide information on ways in which you can improve your health, such as providing recipes for easy-to-cook healthy meals or ways to include physical activity in your daily routine.

In these ways and more, social media can be a convenient means through which you can connect with, collaborate, learn, and motivate yourself during grad school. If you're looking for a place to start being more active on social media and want to learn more about our student community at SPSP, follow us on Twitter at @SPSPGSC.