Thursday, May 2, 2013

Using social networks

I read an article the other day that indicated that Facebook's popularity was waning, especially among younger people. That doesn’t surprise me; what surprises me is that the level of interest in any social network is sustainable for more than five years, given the short attention spans we have developed for most things technological or IT-related. It’s the nature of the beast; something better is always going to come along eventually and supplant the king of the jungle. I suppose that’s the way it should be; at least that’s been the name of the game for as long as I can remember.

I use the social networks Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and I use them for different purposes. I think most people might say the same. It’s a conscious decision on my part to keep them separate from each other. Facebook is my way of keeping in touch with friends and family in the USA, and to some extent, here in Europe. You’d be surprised at how difficult it’s become to get people who live only a town or two away from Oslo, together in one room for a social event. Planning an evening out with three or more people has become a major affair; it’s often easier to update each other on what’s going on via Facebook. So instead of writing five emails a week to friends, I update my status on Facebook several times per week, but not on a daily basis.  So Facebook is for personal use. I use Twitter for professional purposes; I follow most science-related sites; the list grows ever longer. I am now following sites that have to do with politics and government, and find them interesting as well. Not surprising perhaps, when you understand the importance of politics in the creation of policies for how science should be made understandable and relevant for the public (e.g. climate change, global warming, science education in schools, sustainable energy sources). When I started off using Twitter, I wasn’t sure what it might be good for, and I didn’t understand why people sang its praises. Now I know. It’s an amazing way of getting news as it happens. Science publishers like Nature and Science have discovered this; they need only post a short tweet as to what the new hot article is on their websites and in their journals and they’re guaranteed that interested readers will read their tweets and click on the relevant links. New scientific discoveries and interesting new articles spread like wildfire. So I use Twitter to stay updated on what is going on in my field, as well as in science generally. I even credit Twitter with getting me interested in astronomy. You need only follow NASA on Twitter (https://twitter.com/NASA) to understand why. If I had been better in math, I might have been an astronomer, the field is that interesting. Daily Science is another site I follow; you can find them here: https://twitter.com/DailyScienceUp. Guardian Science is another favorite; you can find them here: https://twitter.com/guardianscience. And if you’re interested in following me on Twitter, here is the link: https://twitter.com/paulamdeangelis.

Finally, LinkedIn; it doesn’t surprise me at all that potential employers/recruiters utilize this site frequently. I read an article the other day (courtesy of Twitter) that reported that LinkedIn was the social network that most recruiters use (http://www.livescience.com/29178-recruiters-find-job.html?cmpid=514645). What other platform provides CVs, references, and personal/professional interests for potential candidates for employment? Better yet, what other platform provides you with a candidate’s connections, that may be even more interesting (employable) than the actual candidate in question? This network, like Twitter, is reserved for my professional use, and I plan on keeping it that way. I am careful as to whom I include as a connection, as I want to build a network that can be valuable to me professionally. A nice touch is that your connections can write recommendations for you that are published on the site. Potential employers read such things. Your connections can also recommend specific skills, but I find this aspect less useful than an actual written recommendation.

How things have changed during the past ten years. In that sense, who knows what the next ten years will bring? One thing is certain; there is a new social network or platform just waiting in the wings, whether you like it or not, or whether the current social networks like it or not. That’s the nature of the beast.

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