By: Harini S.
From articles about the insular nature of iPods to the coining of a new term, “Facebook Addiction”, the media is all atwitter about the apparent evils of the latest innovations of the digital age. Most young professionals are no strangers to using networking sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn to get their point across. While a lot has been written lately about the distractive nature of these forums, I have been thinking lately about some of the ways that I have benefited from using these channels of communication.
Taking Facebook as an example, like most people, I use this as a tool to keep in touch with friends and colleagues. However, I have really come to appreciate the utility of this site in the academic world. For instance, I had the opportunity to attend a Gordon Research Conference where I formed multiple contacts with my peers conducting research similar to mine at various institutes around the world. In the pre-Facebook age, we may have exchanged phone numbers or emails, but the likelihood of continued contact would have been very low. However, with the increased use of Facebook, many of us continue to network with each other. This informal network of scientists has been quite valuable as we each went through the thesis writing and job-hunting phases of our careers. Facebook has allowed us to share information about career plans and suggestions about good institutions for post-docs, and even offer introductions to people pursuing alternate career paths.
If the informality of Facebook is not appealing, similar features are also available in more sedate formats such as the professional networking site, LinkedIn. In addition to serving as a networking tool, LinkedIn allows users to upload resumes, expound on expertise and garner recommendations from co-workers.
Having found this sort of networking immensely useful got me thinking about potential ways that scientists could use such forums. Many professional associations including the American Heart Association or the American Diabetes Association already have their own Facebook pages where members share relevant information in a format much less intrusive than group emails. ASN is pleased to announce their new Facebook page and encourages its members to use it to network. For instance, members could use the Facebook page to post their ideas for conference symposia, ask for volunteers for SIGs, or even look for potential roommates while attending a conference. Additionally, real-time updates from organizers and participants at conferences could be invaluable, especially to first-time attendees navigating large conventions such as EB.
While there may be many criticisms of these sites, I believe that
they are here to stay and like with most innovations, it is
ultimately up to the end user to determine their utility.
With more and more young investigators and PIs choosing to
network via these sites, however, I can't help but think that the
game of professional networking has moved beyond the antiquated
exchange of business cards and into the evolving age of Web