There is disagreement between bloggers and commentators who are interested in PhD life, work and success about how important social media is in that process. James Hayton offers an interesting overview of the pros and cons (broadly the pros are that social media can help you build networks and reputation whilst the cons are that it can be addictive and the real key to a successful PhD is quality research).
Others take a different stance, like this guest post on the Thesis Whisperer blog by Heather Davis. She focuses on the role a blog can play in the research process, and specifically on it’s use as a reflective tool which enables us to record, map and develop our project and its progress in a way that makes our own learning more active. Importantly it can also facilitate writing, albeit in a different form when we are struggling with writer’s block, or feel to be at a dead end with research.
Twitter has become a fairly ubiquitous platform for exchanging ideas, information about events and publications and for ‘meeting’ and networking with experts across the globe. As such, it can help us to establish ourselves as researchers even if our confidence or mobility restricts us. Twitter can also become a surreal parallel universe, where events that we are physically present at play out. Many conferences have dedicated tweeting teams and if you want to get to know key people in a circuit this is an easy way to engage in their conversations. Just remember that you should always be courteous, respectful and constructive. Don’t ever say anything online about a person or their research that you wouldn’t say to their face.
If you have decided to put time and effort into a digital presence and engagement you should take some time to think through strategically what persona you want to share about yourself and about your research profile. It is good practice to ‘google’ yourself regularly, don’t be in the dark about what strangers can find out about you from doing the same thing and make absolutely sure that you are comfortable with the your online presence.
Ultimately social media will only boost your professional persona and research content if you engage regularly. You should be sharing robust, dynamic and regular updates, and whilst it is fine to engage with networks and topics that interest you, don’t portray yourself as an expert where you are merely an interested observer!
For other insight about using social media during your PhD take a look at some of these articles:
The Times Higher Education's article 'Social media is the key to getting ahead, PhD students hear'
Tessa Coombe's blog post 'Social media for PhD students'
Eva Lantsoght's post on her blog 'PhD Talk', entitled 5 ways to use social media as a Professor or Grad Student'