Three weeks ago, I was a social media virgin. This is only my third blog post, and so far I have tweeted 37 times (that includes my tweet about this post!). I deliberately started both my blog and my Twitter account from a professional point of view – I don’t have the illusion that strangers want to read about my social life (I might write about this on Facebook), or what I have for breakfast (something that I would never write about on Facebook). But, I do think I might have something sensible to say about science, and I do think that maybe others, who are in a similar career stage, or maybe a bit more junior, might find it interesting to read about my career. But, I have already written about why I decided to write a blog here.
There seems to be a fair amount written about general etiquette in blogging and tweeting. For Twitter, here it says that you shouldn’t scream or stalk, which seems quite obvious to me. Then, for blogging, obviously, you need to comply with copyright law and cite your sources (but I am assuming that everyone on academia does this anyway), be polite, and don’t make spelling mistakes. Here, you can find some content on how to promote your science blog, with the general message that this is a good thing to do. I also found a rather old Guardian article about whether journalists’ professional guidelines apply to their personal activities online.
However, what I am wondering about is what you should and shouldn’t write when blogging and tweeting about science or academia – something that, at least with a quick search, I really can’t find any information on. How unashamedly self-promoting are you allowed to be? I feel moderately uncomfortable promoting my own work on Twitter, but then, it is actually a great way to increase your visibility and connect with a wider audience. But how to do this in a modest way? Should you wait until others tweet about your work? In my first couple of weeks on Twitter, I have mainly seen people tweeting about other people’s work, but then, most people don’t publish a paper that they can tweet about every other week (or at least I don’t!).
Also, how honestly and directly can you express your opinion – about articles, news, but also about the work of colleagues, the organization you work for, or the funder of your projects? For example, in my first blog post, I promised to write about my move from Lancaster University to the University of Manchester. However, I obviously don’t want to harm my further career prospects or insult colleagues, so a simple comparison between, for example, getting office space in these two organizations might already be too candid!
So, it all seems very nice to be able to express your opinion, write about science without having to argue with peer reviewers, or commenting on published articles. But, I very rarely see proper discussions, either in blogs or on Twitter – are social media just a way of continuously congratulating ourselves with how well we are all doing? Is there any real discussion? Or is everything just hidden underneath a thick layer of politeness? Anyone?