Online social networking was basically unheard of just a decade ago, now it’s integrated into the fabric of American society. Facebook pages advertised on the national news and twitter hashtags pop up everywhere. And it’s not just American society either, as evidenced by the use of Twitter for social organization during the Arab Spring.
From what I’ve observed, the use of social networking appears to be extremely varied in academia. This isn’t surprising given the high demands already placed on academics and the slow turnover rate among faculty (older faculty are less likely to adapt new tools of questionable utility but there are numerous exceptions, of course).
I have found blogging to be useful for improving my quick writing skills, thinking through new ideas, getting feedback on ideas and computer code, and making new contacts. My blog is networked through r-bloggers and the International Network of Next Generation Ecologists (INNGE) supported Ecobloggers, which both help create a community of users. I have found a tremendous amount of useful R code and statistical advice on other people’s blogs.
However, I’ve found social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn to be of limited use so far. I’m sure there is a place for work-related Facebook pages, but I’ve just found that I have been outlets. Google+ is similar but I do have an account and use it on occasion for science-related posts and reading. The only main-stream social network that I find really useful is Twitter. I get feedback on computing and statistics questions quickly, find links to articles and ideas I wouldn’t otherwise come across, meet and interact with new people (even in person the the ESA meeting tweetup), and share my thoughts and research with a larger audience.
I’ve signed up but don’t regularly use a number of other social networks and sites where I can post my academic persona. I think these could be useful but haven’t made great use of them yet (listed below). Even things like Mendeley and Stack Exchange have social components and user rating/badge systems. I think it’s important to manage one’s own online image both personally and professionally. I don’t know if I do the best job, but I’ve at least had some fun exploring different options. I am generally careful not to post anything online that I wouldn’t want a hiring committee or my grandmother to find.
Here’s What I’ve used for managing my online professional presence: