Twitter vs blogging: why ‘OR’ when it could be ‘AND’?

 

We all love Twitter. Ok, not everyone loves Twitter, but I’m talking to YOU! The reason why you’re reading this post is probably because you clicked on a link that was shared through Twitter. So either you follow me, or someone that you follow RT it.

Twitter is great for so many things. What I like about it the most is the ability for instant communication –  it makes conversation and interaction so much easier! There’s a lot you can say in 140 characters. Did you read some interesting article? Click on the Twitter share button, and boom! Your followers can see the article’s title along with a link to read it, if they want. Twitter made our lives easier including a ‘RT with comment’ feature, which is great when you want to make a personal comment to a tweet.

A while back, Twitter started to group tweets that are part of a single conversation, to make it easier to follow along. Recently, this feature was extended so one can reply to your own tweet and create a thread. I personally like the idea of Twitter threads, specially when there’s a time-lapse between tweets and you want your followers to see the correlation. Also, sometimes it’s really impossible to say everything you want in 140 characters.

 

THIS! Twitter threads are good, but why are people not putting them on a blog post anymore? I see more and more twitter threads on Twitter. In number and in length. Yes, it is easier to write a thread, and it’s somehow easier to grab the attention of your reader for a longer period of time. But I feel like people are over-using this feature, and lots of those long twitter threads could be easily turned into a blog post.

 

So people are not reading blogs anymore. Why is that? Is it really Twitter that’s slowly killing blogging? When I joined Twitter back in 2013, Google Reader was still around, and it made my life so much easier re: following and reading blogs. The service was discontinued shortly after, and I believe this was the ‘beginning of the end’.  Or maybe RSS was already on its deathbed and the discontinuation of Google Reader was an inevitable consequence of what was already happening.

I named my blog “Science Reverie – Because I love being a scientist and talking about it”. I confess that I have never blogged constantly. Partially because I use my blog to vent about professional problems/dilemmas, but mainly because my pseudo didn’t allow me to share a lot about my specific research (when I was still in academia). But in a world where science is hidden behind paywalls, how can we make science available to everyone?

Social media is important for science communication. But not only Twitter! Despite the fact that the tweet is also in the internet forever, it is much harder to find a specific tweet in the internet than a blog post. Blogging is important not only for dissemination of science, but also in between peers. When I was applying for jobs, I can’t name the number of blog posts I read regarding tips to write a cover letter or how to tailor your CV/resume. Academics keep complaining that they live in an ivory tower, but then they don’t do anything to expand their horizons. Some institutions are trying to combine research and teaching with the local community, allowing discussion and engagement. But what place better to do that than the internet?

One can argue ‘why write if no one bothers to read?’

If everyone stops writing, people won’t have what to read.

Blogging is essential for science outreach! It is one of the easiest ways for scientists to publish their science and make it available globally. It improves your writing skills. It is fun and can bring fulfillment to your life. It is your space, where you can share your research, your points of view about a specific subject, or simply vent. Setting up a blog requires some work in the beginning, but blogging is easy and fast to publish afterwards. We need to expand science, not keep hiding it. We can’t let blogging die.

If you do have a blog, please, keep it up!

If you don’t, consider creating one – for the sake of SCIENCE!

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On pseudonymity

I’m not a big ass scientist (yet). Most of the people don’t give a fuck about what I say on twitter or when I occasionally blog. But still, I don’t write under my real name. Why? Because… academic life! How many times have you heard “Twitter is a waste of time”, “You should focus on writing papers instead of blogging”, etc… I’m a postdoc applying for jobs. I have my reasons. And so does every scientist that twits or blogs under a pseudonym. That’s why it’s not ok to out someone’s else pseudonym. I don’t care if you were insulted, or “endured 3 years of unwarranted, undeserved unpleasantness from a pseudonymous blogger”. There’s nothing preventing to answer or fight with the pseudo person! Simply outing the blogger seems such a childish way to fight. And it just shows who is the real bully of the history.

I feel like it’s easier to be yourself when you write under a pseudonym. “Hiding” behind a pseudonym may give you freedom to say whatever you wouldn’t say IRL. The good and the bad. But I’ve been actively on Twitter for more than a year and I really don’t believe that the main reason people don’t write under their real names is to insult others. The academic world is as nasty as any other world, and what’s in the internet is public and lives forever. When I started to use twitter I was writing under my real name. I would think 300 times before writing anything, wondering what my boss would think, or if it would be appropriate. After I adopted my pseudonym, I found it so much easier just to be myself and write whatever was in my mind. That makes me wonder, who is really hiding here – the ones that write under a pseudonym or the ones that write under their real names?

Regardless on how you write, personally I found the most supportive group of people on Twitter. Answers to scientific questions, proofreading of my job applications, samples of grants and statements, and most important of all: personal support. I met some of my twitter friends in real life. We do google hangouts to discuss science or just for fun. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care how many papers you have published or where do you work. All I care is people are there for me. And I’ll be there for them. That’s all.

Existential Crisis

I don’t know exactly how it started, but suddenly I started to feel very unmotivated. Twitter is awesome because you meet so many friends willing to help, but also can bring your mood down when you have access to so much information… Talking to a friend on Skype I learned about the RU/VH type of University and went to check my 10 applications. 9 out of 10 are in RU/VH institutions. Then I saw this on twitter:

@AntiLabUCF From our latest search: top candidates ave: ~4 yrs post doc, 17.5 pubs, 1-2 PNAS/Sci/Nat, 5-10+ 1st author, $, fit job descript

Then I felt like... Fuck. I’m nowhere near this description, I have 8 years of PD, 15 publications and none of them in glam journals. No funding yet (although I submitted my very first R03 – low expectations). From the 10 applications I’m submitting only one is a perfect fit. Meh. It’s going to be hard to get a job this season… So I was talking to @IHStreet on Twitter and he told me he was giving up the idea of getting a TT position because he was choosing LIFE! And although our conversation put a bug in his head (see his blog post here), he also put a big big bug into my head! Is this really what I want for my life? This craziness of writing grants no stop, of having to adapt your research to something more appealing, the paranoid of becoming tenure…

I realized I spent too much time of my PD years just focused on personal life and not caring about what I wanted professionally. It’s not that I didn’t know where I wanted to go, but I was just waiting to see what was going to happen. When I finally woke up it was already kind of too late. Now I am trying to fill the holes of my CV, but as Jack Bauer would say “I’m running out of time”! And to put the cherry on the top, in our last lab meeting our PI told me and the other PDs to start looking for jobs because he thinks that our R01 has little chance to be renewed. The alternative would be to bring new things to our grant. New techniques! But for that we need preliminary data but we don’t have a lot of time or money. So it feels like we have no way out.

And now I start to freak out because I’ll probably be jobless in an year from now. And although I really think I want my own lab, where I can have my students and do my research, I feel like it’s a fairy tale that it’s not going to happen. IHStreet also mentioned that 80% of PDs will not end up in tenure track jobs. And now I regret that I didn’t apply to all those tiny teaching positions of my list. Time to look for alternatives? I believe in the end I know that I still want a TT position. I just wished that it was easier to get one and to have a life along with it!

Research dreams shaken after SFN (gotta go where the money is)

So SFN is officially over and now I have time to assimilate all things that happened there. As always, SFN was a little bit overwhelming: posters, networking, and of course meeting lots of old (and new = banter) friends. Doing all this for 5 days requires a lot of energy! This SFN I didn’t go shopping. Didn’t go to the zoo or sightseeing anything. I was all the time in the convention center, working and working hard.

This was my 11th SFN meeting. I attend to it every year since 2002 (except last year when I had my visa problems). Along these years I met many researchers and I believe I can say that I know almost everybody in the subarea of the big area of my research (does it make sense?). So it is a subarea. And it’s not cancer, or Parkinson, or similar. No one dies because of it, and unfortunately there’s no much incentive to it. Number of posters were clearly diminished, it’s been a couple of years since there was a nanosymposium about it.

This year I had more background to talk to researchers about research and funding. Thanks to twitter I know what’s going on in the big research world, but I had no idea what was going on in the microcosmos of my research. I am terrified. People slowly leaving the field, or asking grants for some other topic and working in both at the same time. Talked to a member of the search committee for my top job app and he told me that he changed fields because “you gotta go where the money is”. Another European researcher told me he has been in his position for 5 years and just now he got his first grant in this line of research. Before he was asking money for something else and doing this at a side project. Always.

I still have that romantic view of science, of getting excited with data, with results – and not really worried about top techniques or top journals. I still wanted to do animal physiology and not intracellular measurements of calcium currents, or genetic manipulations of a specific receptor or ion channel. Don’t take me wrong, I believe that’s really important, but it’s just not what I’ve been trained to. And now I’m starting to believe that I have to rethink my future research to find out hot topics that can be combined with my research, not because I care about them or because I think they are necessary, but because I need to get a job and money for my research.

This makes me feel like a research whore.

Twitter and Blogging vs Time

About one year ago I started to use twitter, to follow scientists accounts and found all very exciting. I never thought twitter could be such a powerful way to communicate with other fellow scientists! I didn’t post twits very often, and I blamed it mostly on the fact that I don’t have a WiFi connection in my phone. But also, realized that if I used a pseudo I would be able to share more. So a couple of weeks ago I did it! Set up a new Twitter account, a new blog. Got so excited about that, like I was a whole new person! Promised myself that I was going to be actively on Twitter and that I was going to publish at least a blogpost per week.

Suddenly tons shit of work fall into my lap. My boss wants me back home ASAP and he also wants me to bring ALL results with me. Pressure. Measurements does not work. Frustration, more attempts. Then remember twitter. Oh, I open it and just glance my eyes through the first posts, without being able to focus. At night at home I open my RSS feed to take a look at blogs that I follow. So many nice posts! So many good thing out there.

Then I feel so frustrated. Keep reading posts and twits from people that might be way much busy that I am. Feel that is important to communicate, that scientists should keep blogs, etc etc. But am I really able to do it? I have tons of ideas of what I could write about, but feel I can’t find the time to do it. Maybe it’s just my life right now, where everything is so uncertain. But on the other hand, like when you want to give up smoking, people say there’s never going to be an optimal time to do that. That’s why I feel frustrated. I know my life is crazy right now but I also know that things will not get better or easier. The worries and duties will just be different.

That’s why I decided to write this post. And keep trying to find the time for Doctor_PMS!