Whether you’re a science communication professional, a scientist or simply a science-enthusiast, social media is one of the best places to go for your science fix. But with thousands of potential ways to digest online content, how do you know what to look at without becoming overwhelmed?
There are a few ways you can break it down: how much time you have, how you like taking in information, what exactly you’re looking for… and even that list is beginning to feel overwhelming! So in this post I hope to be able to give you a little guide for how navigate the thick soupy waters that is science on social media.
Which social media channel?
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, YouTube, Tumblr, blogs… the list is almost endless. Unless there’s something or somebody you’re really keen to hear from on a social media channel you don’t already use, you may as well stick with what you know.
Different social media channels are suited to specific things. The most commonly used ones are: YouTube for videos (can vary widely in length/quality/style); Twitter for short snippets of info (but can also link to further content); Facebook for shorter or longer pieces of content; Instagram for visually-orientated posts; blogs for longer reads.
On Twitter and Instagram you can also search for content by using a hashtag e.g. #science – so you can find posts from you people you may not necessarily follow or have heard from before. This is a great way to find new stuff!
So aside from which ones you already use, it’s worth thinking about what kind of content you’re after. For example, I don’t know why but I always forget about YouTube, and there’s some awesome stuff on there – from exam revision-style content and how-to videos to more casual vlog (video-blog) content from science communicators.
What are you looking for?
This requires first knowing what’s out there – do you want to get information directly from an active researcher? A news outlet? A reporter? A fellow science-enthusiast? Do you purely want the hard facts or are you interested in the personal lives of scientists too?
If you’re new to following science stuff on social media I’d suggest looking at as many different people and styles as you can. That way you can begin to filter out the users and content types that don’t engage you as much, and your social media feed will become tailored to what you like.
For a bit of personal life and science stuff mixed, following scientists and researchers on Twitter and Instagram works best and is often really interesting. People still often forget that scientists have a personal and social life! That said, if you prefer just the science content, there are scientist and science-specific news accounts on Twitter who just do that. YouTube is great for more in depth science content, often from science communicators, and blogs can cover a bit of both.
How much time do you have?
Once you know a little bit more about what social media channels you’re happy using and what type of stuff you like, this is a key one that will determine where to get your science fix.
- Very little (e.g. you’ve taken your phone with you to the loo): Have a quick scroll through Twitter or Instagram depending on if you want some words or some pictures! You can bookmark any longer reading that’s been linked to for later.
- A few minutes (e.g. you’re waiting for a train): Perhaps have a look through Twitter or Facebook and click on a link that interests you, give it a skim and see if you might want to read more later. Instagram posts often have fairly lengthy captions so you could head there for some more in-depth Instagram time.
- A bit longer (e.g. your experiment has gone wrong and you need a bit of time out before you attempt it again): There are some nice short videos on YouTube, or you could look through Twitter for any of those longer read links you bookmarked earlier.
- Half an hour or so (e.g. your lunch break): If you’re subscribed to any blogs (like this one!) you can read their latest posts, or you can look at the channels you’re subscribed to on YouTube for their latest videos. I find that if you scroll through Twitter or Instagram or Facebook for this long you reach saturation point pretty quickly; but you might be different!
- An entire evening: Kudos to you for dedicating your whole evening to learning some science. In this instance I’d actually suggest sticking a documentary on the telly with a nice cuppa or a glass of wine. Enjoy!