THING 14 – SOCIAL MEDIA
Thing 14 deals with using social media platforms in an academic context. It briefly introduces the microblogging systems: Twitter and Mastodon, Facebook’s social network, and scholarly collaboration networks like ResearchGate.
Social media platforms typically allow you to search or browse content that members post regardless of whether or not you have an account. However, without an account, you will be unable to share, participate in conversations, or use the other features the platforms provide.
Social media platforms each have their own jargon for common features. The following diagram shows the term used by the platform next to a brief description of its purpose (click the image for a bigger version).
Microblogging systems tend to be simple. They enable users to post messages and read each others’ messages via a chronological timeline or algorithmically generated feed.
Twitter allows users to post (“tweet”) short messages of up to 280 characters. In addition to the text, you can include images, videos, links, and polls.
The list functionality in Twitter is useful if you follow a lot of people because the quantity of “tweets” (Twitter’s name for posts) in your timeline will rapidly pass you by. Using a list, you can curate a collection of users and easily scan their tweets.
Mastodon allows messages of up to 500 characters and bears similarities to Twitter. Mastodon supports posting (“tooting”) images, videos, and links but also has some specialized features.
No single entity controls Mastodon, which distinguishes it from the other platforms described here. You can interact with people on your own Mastodon instance and on any other Mastodon instance. Just like you can send e-mails to people within Concordia University or to external e-mail addresses.
This decentralization allows you to create an account on a topical Mastodon instance. Some examples include the scholarly community at scholar.social, a science community at scicomm.xyz and you can probably guess what they’re interested in at mathstodon.xyz or humanities.one. For more communities, see joinmastodon.org or instances.social.
Tips & Techniques
Using the #Hashtag
Hashtags are an informal way of categorizing what a post is about. Clicking a hashtag link will search for other posts with that hashtag. Anybody can make a hashtag simply by adding the # symbol in front of a word. If you’ve ever attended a conference, at some point you likely noticed a hashtag being promoted. Concordia lists some hashtags used in its social media accounts. The Inside Higher Ed website offers a directory of hashtags that are relevant to higher education and used on Twitter.
Using the @ Symbol
Designate a person or organization by prefacing their username with the @ (at) symbol in your post. Clicking an @username typically displays that user’s profile including posts, followers, and other information.
Social and Scholarly Collaboration Networks
Both Facebook and ResearchGate facilitate much more than online discussions or concise exchanges of information. These feature-rich social networks formalize many types of personal information, enabling you to create a professional online presence.
Facebook enables you to post text, images, videos, polls, events, and much more. It offers many features beyond what microblogging platforms provide and you will see notifications about various types of activities (scholarly or otherwise) that your connections engage in.
As a social network, Facebook maintains an extensive set of profiling options so that you can include a lot of information about yourself, or find out about other people based on the information they’ve provided.
ResearchGate.com, Academia.edu, and soon ScholarlyHub.org are examples of scholarly collaboration networks (SCNs) for connecting and communicating with other researchers. Profiles on ResearchGate are designed for academics’ needs. For example, the system includes fields for an ORCiD, research experience, teaching experience, and more.
ResearchGate emphasizes that you should upload your research output, not just for access but also because it can use the documents to provide information about your research interests or citations. (Remember to verify your rights before uploading). As your circle of connected researchers contribute new work or describe new projects, the site can alert you and recommend other relevant work.
Tips & Techniques
Exposure vs. Privacy
Pay attention to the user settings to adjust how widely the information you provide about yourself is made accessible. If your aim is to gain contacts with peers, you’ll want to have an easily findable presence. Do be cautious with the privacy settings, however, as your data can be used in unexpected ways.
ResearchGate is designed for academic work but Facebook is a general purpose network. Whether you already use Facebook or have just created a new account, review how to use lists. Do you want to share photographs of your pet dog with everyone (including research colleagues) or with family members only? Used effectively, lists help you find and share information in the most appropriate contexts.