Tag Archives: social media

“Tweets,” “Tweetups,” and “Tweeps:” Confessions of a Skeptical Student Turned Online Science-Writer


-Sarah Keartes

After a four year hiatus, returning to college was an exciting venture. I was ready to learn—my mind was porous and ready to sponge up the liquid gold which I knew my professors would spew from their educated mouths. “Bring it on,” I thought to myself. I was ready.

Eager and anxious, I peered through the doors of Columbia hall, scanning the ridiculous sea of chairs for just the right spot. Professor Bill Ryan walked down the isles with a calm confidence and inquisitive brow, stopping only to say hello to familiar students, making his way to the front of the room. Though his back was turned to the class, I could just make out the side of his face, and that is when I saw it. The look.

The corners of his mouth crawled up slowly, as if in a Bane v. Batman battle against the muscles in his cheeks. They stopped in a wry smirk—he knew something I didn’t. Liquid gold. I was ready.

“How many of you are on Twitter?” he asked.

Twitter? I was ready for mind-blowing, earth-shattering brain food and this guy was talking about Twitter? My heart sank and I rolled my eyes the way adolescents do when they know they could never be wrong. Twitter was a waste of time, a wannabe Facebook that only allowed enough characters to say, well, nothing important—I knew that.

“If you are serious about journalism, you need to be on twitter, you need to be part of the conversation, find your community,” he explained.

Conversation, shmonversation. How could 140 characters help me become a science writer? The next day, I set out on a new venture—to prove Professor Ryan wrong. My science mind knew that I couldn’t disprove his claim without any data. I needed  working knowledge of the tweet-world—I needed research. I set up my account, ready to taste victory.

Well, Professor Ryan, to my enjoyment, I was wrong—horribly wrong.

Sure, Twitter is another social media platform, and just like Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and many others can be a forum for pointless life play-by-plays. But what I didn’t realize, is just how useful a tool it is to connect to people who share your interests—people who can debate, brainstorm, advise, and share their experiences with you. In this way, social media can facilitate educational and professional growth.

“Today, social media go beyond personal connections to permeate professional interactions, including scientific ones,” Emily S. Darling, David Shiffman, Isabelle M. Côté, and Joshua A. Drew explain in their paper The role of Twitter in the life cycle of a scientific publication.

“Twitter provides a large virtual department of colleagues that can help to rapidly generate, share and refine new ideas.”

Within my first few weeks on twitter, I connected with Bora “The Blogfather,” Zivkovic, blog editor at Scientific American. He urged me to to register for ScienceOnline2013, an “un-conference” dedicated to connecting people interested in the intersection of science and online media—many of whom met on Twitter. I was unsure if I could hold my own at the event, as I was “just a student,” but I decided to register anyway.

At ScienceOnline I learned an immense amount about online media, writing, science, and networking—but I learned the most about myself. I am not just a student. You are not just a student. We are students with passions, interests, opinions, and unique perspectives. We each have something to say, and it is that something that connects us. We have something to say, and people want to hear it.

From the moment I walked into the conference center, I felt at home. I was surrounded by my Twitter community—my “Tweeps,” (twitter peeps) people who shared my love for science, and who wanted to connect, collaborate, and learn from others regardless of position.  My Tweeps have become, in essence, a family—a network of support, knowledge, and life-long friendships that would never have been had I not reached out to the online science community.

Perhaps you have never tweeted, or you have never thought to use Twitter to network with people in your field of study, perhaps you are uninterested. But if curiosity is calling here are some tips to getting started from a former nonbeliever:

#1 Find your conversation: hashtags are more than a fad.

With over 550 million active users on twitter, there is a conversation for everyone. Searching for hashtags (noted with a pound symbol) is a great way to find people with similar interests. For example, initially, I searched for tweets which had been tagged “#sciencewriters” and “#studentjournalism” in hopes of finding other science writers and student journalists who I could talk to about their experience.

#2 Find your voice: forget titles and don’t be shy.

Reaching out to professionals can be a bit daunting. Leave your fear at the door—er, homepage. The first step in successful networking is saying hello.

My search for “#sciencewriters” brought me to aviation and space journalist Miles O’Brien. I had recently seen one of his films, and had some questions about his experience working on it. He had 31,745 followers, so I assumed he wouldn’t respond, but I reached out anyway. To my surprise, he responded right away, and was happy to talk shop. Remember that most people are active on social media because they want to talk and share.


#3 Find your “tweeps”

Once you find people who interest you, start looking at who they follow. What are those people saying? Who do they follow? By taking the time to see what your tweeps are saying, and who they are saying it to, you can quickly expand your network.

#4 Find each other elsewhere: “tweetup,” and “Hangout”

Yes, “tweetup!”  Just like ScienceOnline brought together 450 people from an online community, small-scale Tweetups (in person meetings with twitter friends and colleagues) are a great way to stay connected, and make new connections. Find people in your area who share you interests, and suggest a meeting to bounce ideas around, or talk about your work.

At ScienceOnline I was able to connect with the four other undergraduate students attending by sending out the following tweet using the conference’s designated hashtag “#SciO13:”

“Hey #scio13 undergrads, meet in the Marriott [hotel] lobby?”

Now that we are back in our home-states, we are able to stay connected with Google+ “Hangouts” (multi-person video-chats). Every two weeks we meet on Google+ to talk about internships, school, blogging, and science writing in general.  We share our questions, and comments by posting them on twitter using our hashtag “#sciyoung.”


@scifleur, @shanpalus and @sarahkeartes discussing the best way to handle rude comments on blog posts at the last #sciyoung Hangout

@scifleur, @sarahkeartes and @shanpalus discuss the best way to handle rude comments on blog posts at the last #sciyoung Hangout.

You can see how my twitter community is helping me achieve my goals. Get out there, get creative, and get connected.

Has social media helped your career? Let me know by commenting below!

Follow Sarah on Twitter!

Infographic by Katie Ph.D.

Segregated Proms and Social Media


-Casey Klekas

This year marks the 150th anniversary since President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It has been sixty years since Brown v. Board of Education declared racial segregation unconstitutional. And it has been fifty years since Dr. Martin Luther King gave his imperishable “I Have a Dream” speech, addressed not just to those at the feet of the Lincoln Memorial, but to every person in the United States, from the “snow-capped Rockies of Colorado” to the “Stone Mountain of Georgia.” It has been fifty years, and yet the word “segregated” still rings in some parts of the United States.

My generation hasn’t had much more than a Hollywood encounter with segregated schools or the unavoidable pains of integration. My first experience with the history of racial segregation probably came through Forrest Gump (“Ma’am, you dropped your book.”). This period, while undoubtedly unforgettable, is still just a distant chapter in our history books.

Well, at least that’s what I thought until I stumbled across headlines that read, “Georgia students organize their own, integrated prom,” and “Segregated prom tradition yields to unity.”

For those of you who are well aware of this “phenomenon” (I don’t know what else to call it), please forgive me. For those of you who, like me, were convinced that segregation died in the ‘60s and ‘70s, you might be as shocked as I was when I found out that in some parts of the American south, school dances are still organized according to skin color.

The ruling in Brown v. Board of Education said that segregated schools were unconstitutional, and that, “in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place.” Chief Justice Earl Warren fought to make it a unanimous decision (nine-zero) so as to quell any further legal opposition. In order to get a nine-zero decision, Warren made the concession of leaving an open timetable to the implementation of school integration. Schools gradually became integrated or they closed down. But some traditions such as school dances were difficult to integrate with force. Some proms were no longer sanctioned by the school but were instead privately organized by students and parents so dances could remain racially segregated.

This tradition has been difficult to buck. “White proms” were normally invitation-only, while “black proms” remained largely open to all.

There have been several famous acts of resistance to this tradition, like in 1997, when actor Morgan Freeman offered to sponsor an integrated high school prom in his hometown of Charlestown, Mississippi. His offer was denied. Ten years later, he made the offer again. This time, it was accepted. This event inspired a documentary Prom Night in Mississippi.

Only a few counties in the southern states still hold separate proms based on variations in pigment. Until Saturday, April 28, 2013, Wilcox, Georgia, was one such county. Four girls came up with the idea of breaking with tradition and making their high school prom integrated. To raise money and awareness, they created a Facebook page, which brought in more than enough money to rent a ballroom and offer party gifts to every couple.

The pictures of happy couples at the dance look like any other prom pictures of nervous high schoolers with awkward smiles and silly hats.

The first two statuses on the group’s page are about local fundraisers, including the “Barbecue Chicken Plate Sale,” as well as donation opportunities for those across the country. The next few read something like, “We would like to thank everyone all over the world who have given to this Prom and cause from the depths of your heart.” Then the countdown begins. “4 MORE DAYS!!!! *SCREAMING* :-)”. The Saturday of the dance read, “TODAY IS THE DAY!!!!!! SO BEYOND EXCITED 🙂 *BUTTERFLIES IN OUR STOMACHS AND SCREAMING WITH EXCITEMENT*.”

Each picture and status update has hundreds, if not thousands of “likes” and heartening comments. Don’t be surprised if you get teary-eyed.

The courage of the students who organized, attended, and got down on the dance floor at Wilcox High School’s first integrated prom makes me proud to think that the spirit of brotherhood that sustained the Civil Rights Movement is alive and well in the Facebook generation.

Image by Shalimar Flower Shop.

TIL (Today I Learned) about the power of Reddit

-Emily Fraysse

Otherwise known as “The Front Page of the Internet,” Reddit is an online source for what is popular, new, informational, and interesting on the web. With a simple black-outlined alien as their mascot, the Reddit community is tight-knit and informative. Through voting, the users of Reddit can decide on what is worth reading or looking at and what is not. The front page is constantly changing with new links to stories, photos, and videos that registered users upload or post, and it has its own slang, which consists of a list of commonly used acronyms.

In lieu of last Monday’s devastating events in Boston, people took it upon themselves to use Reddit, one of the most popular social media outlets, to post live updates about the incident, and information on how to find people and how to help post-bombing. An outpour of citizens in the Boston area posted onto a Google doc for marathon runners in need of a place to stay. Other Redditors offered their assistance by offering car rides to people in the metropolitan area and donating their unused frequent flier miles to people who need to get in or out of Boston. A sub-Reddit titled “random_acts_of_pizza,” which allows subscribers to order pizza deliveries for others as an act of kindness, offered those hosting runners a free pizza.

Links such as Live Scanner Feed, Google Person Finder, Redcross Safe and Well, and other important information regarding the bombings and safety flooded the tops of the Boston Marathon Bombing threads.

Today I Learned (TIL) that the Reddit community is powerful, strong, and growing. It is saddening to think that this kind of care only comes out in times of need, but Reddit continues to prove that point otherwise. In February of this year, a Redditor by the username of chewy01234 posted a thread titled, “r/Boston can you help a guy with a Kidney Transplant out in this snow storm? After the winter storm Nemo began to hit New England, he realized that his prescription medication was in New York, while he was stuck in Boston. Upvotes and comments boomed hours after the post, and four hours later, chewy01234 was contacted by the user rockstaraimz, who lived in Brookline. She herself was a kidney transplant recipient and was able to drop off some of her Prograf medication to save the man’s kidney.  In other cases, Redditors have raised funds for a man with terminal kidney cancer to travel the world, and Redditors found a hit-and-run driver faster than the Montreal Police.

The power of Reddit is undeniable, and by the looks of it, unstoppable. CNN writer Dorrine Mendoza called Reddit “a social platform where clever memes, photos of kittens and discussions of space, science and politics are interwoven with NSFW [not suitable for work] jokes, original artwork and an abundance of sexual innuendo. It can be simultaneously fascinating and offensive. And occasionally it is a place where the most intimate human moments are laid bare.”

Terms of Abuse? A Look Into Social Media's Fine Print

-Marissa Tomko

I feel like my answer to everything these days is “I saw it on the internet.” From the catchy “Call Me Maybe” tune to Lance Armstrong’s confessions, I am constantly scrolling through notifications, Tweets, and articles about the world around me, and what is happening at that very moment. It takes mere minutes for news to go viral, and there is never a way to tell when it will happen.

The modern-day sensation of insta-news was especially appropriate last month, when the social media company Instagram changed its “Terms of Use.” Instagram’s new policy stated that it would be able to use the photos of any Instagrammer for advertisements, or sell them to services with no obligation to notify or compensate the user. This realization sparked internet pandemonium—people were outraged at the company. Account holders threatened to delete their photo streams for good, including celebrities with large followings and National Geographic. These threats did not go unnoticed. After all, what is social media without users?

Consequently, less than a week later on December 20, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom wrote in a blogpost that the language surrounding the public’s issues would be removed, and that the new new policy would go into effect on January 19, 2013. Last week, an email went out reminding users that the policy will take effect on Saturday. The email was sure to remind users that they will have control over the privacy of their photos.

After all of the controversy and change, there are some that believe that while the protests of users were commanding and influential, they weren’t completely aware of the situation. In an interview with The Washington Post, Susan Scafidi, a professor of law at Fordham University, says that these were probably Instagram’s policies all along.

“The issue was never that Instagram could sell your images. The issue was that, under the ‘Terms of Use,’ they could license them to anyone, anywhere, for virtually any purpose.” Users of social media such as Instagram are unaware of what companies can actually do with their content and user data, the knowledge of which might make one wary of what they choose to do online.

Like most people, I’m probably still not going to read all of the fine print every time I purchase a new app for my phone. But I do take comfort in knowing that if something is brought to the attention of my fellow online addicts, I’ll be able to find out at the refresh of a Twitter feed. Meanwhile, I’ll just be watching the newest cat video.

The Social Media Election

-Jamie Hershman

Guess what yesterday was? Election Day. Shocker. But guess what yesterday also was? The day that I couldn’t bring myself to go on Facebook or any other social media website I have an account on.

Every time I scrolled through my news feed, I would see a new Facebook status expressing a political view that I frankly did not care about. Having sent in my ballot over a week ago (which I’m sure many of the people making statuses to vote did as well), I couldn’t really care less who people chose to vote for and what propositions they were supporting. I’m not being inconsiderate, because everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I just feel some opinions should be kept to yourself—or at least off of your timeline.

Most, if not all, students know that November 6 is Election Day, so looking at all the obnoxious “MAKE SURE YOU VOTE TODAY” statuses just made me overwhelmed with annoyance. It almost seemed that everyone posting these statuses, tweets, and Instagram photos showing that they had voted thought doing so would make them seem cool. It’s true that voting is a great thing and that every adult should do their duty as an American citizen by voting, but advertising it via social media just seems like you are trying too hard to prove to people that you are educated in politics. I don’t know if these obnoxious people actually know what’s going on in the election or not, but it almost looks desperate.

The worst cases, though, were those statuses that tried to sway your vote for their candidate choice. Using Facebook as an outlet is surely not going to make me take you seriously, and, in my opinion, makes you look like a fool.

I know that freedom of speech is included with all the social media sites, and I’m not advocating for people to stop voicing their opinions. What I’m trying to say is, nobody cares. No one cares if you are voting for Obama or Romney. While you may think everyone is on the edge of their seat waiting for you to update your status as to what time exactly you cast your ballot, I hate to inform you that it’s untrue. Be a good citizen and vote; just please, for the sake of everyone’s newsfeed, don’t put it on Facebook.

Follow Jamie on Twitter!

Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ilovememphis/8161099567

The Constant Update: Keeping Up With The Fast-Paced World

-Emily Fraysse

The image of a person sitting down with their morning coffee and unfolding a newspaper is being replaced today with a person slouched over and glued to a computer, smart phone, or iPad. Today’s news has turned from complete sentences to bite-sized tweets, statuses, and headlines only to instantly grab the attention of the reader like a line of cocaine presented in front of a drug addict. This instantaneous information via sources like the Internet and television are preferred over “older forms” of getting the news through print media.  With the ability to get information on what is happening second by second, why would anyone settle for reading yesterdays news?

Social media has changed the way business, government, individuals, and society work as a whole.  In the past few years, newspapers and other major corporations rely on and utilize social media sites to connect with the rest of the population in hopes of furthering and expanding their company.  A variety of widgets and applications have dominated the smart phone scene as an alternative to using the Internet.  Global newspaper companies rely on these applications to get their work out to the public in a timely, cheap, eco-friendly in comparison with paper news.  From a smart phone, a person can check his or her bank account, update a status on Facebook, buy their Christmas presents from Ebay, check the latest tweets on Twitter, view the news on the New York Times application, and even watch live television.  With the world literally in the palm of your hands, why would you ever need to leave your own house?

In a way, this sort of instant gratification is encouraging a more connected world that is constantly in the “know.”  But, it is also promoting a world that is fully enthralled and immersed in its own egocentric sphere.  Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, BlogSpot and Tumblr all promote the same thing: a type of self-centeredness.  These countess social platforms are a way of socialization and marketing of the news, but it also a method of self-promotion.  While people spend hours absorbed with who posted what, stalking potential soul mates, pouring out feelings and ideas into blogs, and living vicariously through other people’s photographs, crimes are committed right outside our front door. The reason for all this madness is so simple: it is a way to memorialize us on the world.  People want to be “liked” on Facebook or StumbledUpon because deep down, people want a witness.  They want acknowledgement of their existence, like a name etched into the dirty wall of a high school bathroom.  Whether it is in a tweet, a status, or a blog post, technology has changed the way people think and act. Now, do you dare take a bite out of the technology apple?

Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlane

Please Browse Responsibly

-Sam Bouchat

Social Media—it connects us. It lets us hang on to old friends, and introduces us to new ones. It lets us organize, socialize, and express ourselves. And, every so often, it brings out our inner idiot.

As social media becomes more popular, the line between appropriate and ridiculous becomes blurred. Where things were once private, now they are presented to the world on a platter made from a need to be noticed in the online world. Here, when everyone is yelling, only those who offer something of magnificent stupidity can truly be heard.

Last week, 20-year-old Kentuckian Michael Baker landed himself in jail. How? He siphoned gasoline from a cop car. The best part: his girlfriend snapped a quick photo of Baker in the act as he gave the camera a hearty middle finger. Perfect Facebook profile pic, no? And take one wild guess as to how the cops found out about his little crime.

Moving on.

Washington woman Ellenora Fulk was looking through her “People You May Know” suggestions on Facebook. You know the drill: Facebook uses its detective skills on your profile and those of your friends to see who else you might be friends with that you haven’t requested yet. One of her suggestions? A woman named Teri Wyatt-O’Neill, whose profile revealed a picture of Wyatt-O’Neill and Fulk’s husband drinking champagne next to a wedding cake. Fulk’s husband, Alan, has left in 2009 but has not divorced his wife. Mr. Fulk was then charged with bigamy. Aw yea.

But hey, it’s not just Americans doing this stuff! A Swiss woman was fired from her job at Nationale Suisse after she called in sick from work. The reason? She had a migraine, and couldn’t bear to work in front of a bright computer. As a person who gets migraines, I say, power to her. However, when her boss discovered that she was “online” on Facebook, one less person worked at Nationale Suisse. Come on, the “invisible” button is right there!

A British man, Craig Lynch, escaped from a minimum security prison in Suffolk in 2009. While on the run, this intellectual posted status updates about what he was up to: holiday plans, lunch details, the weather. He gave only enough information to taunt police, who were no doubt one of his 40,000 fans and were subscribed to his less-than-interesting news feed. He was caught in January 2010, though whether or not it had anything to do with his online fame, no one knows.

Here’s a great thing to tweet: “I still gotta warrant in pearland .. those pigs will NEVER catch me … NEVER!!!” Wait a second, no it’s not. That’s flippin’ stupid. Well, someone should have told that to 20-year-old Texan Mahogany Mason-Kelly, who had not one, but three warrants out for her arrest for traffic violations and failing to appear in court. Funny, how these things work.

In conclusion, students, be careful what you post online. Believe it or not, not everyone will laugh at your silly crime. Some people may actually do something about it.

The Fashion String: Social Photography

-Tamara Feingold

You went to a party last night. No one posted pictures online. Did it count?

Gone are the days of enjoying your company in real life. Now, it’s all about online documentation. What’s a party without Foursquare check-ins, Twitter hashtags, vintage Instagram photos, and, most importantly, a new Facebook album?

This isn’t anything new; Tom Wolfe referenced the social network narcissist years ago in the film Bill Cunningham New York. He mentions an old magazine article titled “You went out last night. Nobody wrote about it. Do you exist?” In the interview, Wolfe talks about the importance of newspaper columns to New York socialites and mentions that a lot of people were caught up in this frame of mind.

It’s still true. We’re so worried about updating every online outlet possible to convince the world we’re having fun that we don’t actually let ourselves have fun.

Let’s talk about fashion and parties. At first you may think it’s okay to wear the same outfit to two different parties, two weekends in a row. None of your mutual friends will be there so no one will know, right? WRONG. Some aspiring photographer will use her new Canon EOS Rebel T3i to take pictures of you sitting on a couch at the first party. Your other friend will probably whip out his disposable camera at the second one. You’ve made a huge mistake: Facebook friends flipping through your tagged photos will assume you only own one outfit.

The people who know this make sure to wear their weekend best at each and every party. Girls layer dripping necklaces over their short dresses, while guys add a hat here, change a sweatshirt there. This creates some kind of Facebook image of each person, hundreds of tagged photos that weave together in a digital scrapbook.

Parties aren’t just parties anymore; they’re photo ops. Your outfits don’t just create your style; they create a character by which people judge you online.

This creates the question: are we dressing for some kind of social media paparazzi when we go out? You have two options here. You can either dress for Facebook in outfits your friends will think are stylish or you can wear what like, when you like.

Follow Tamara at @tamfeingold