Promoting science through social media

Social media has emerged as one of the most powerful forms of communication in the world. Its simplicity and ease of use make it easy for users of almost any age to combine and share content across multiple platforms.

To analyze the breadth of social media reach, an analysis by Kepios Marketing Strategies Consulting estimates that in April 2022 there were 4.65 billion users of social media worldwide, 326 million more than in the same month last year.

For many, social media is about spreading social and professional networks, sharing photos, information, and opinions with a wider audience, initiating conversations, and connecting with that audience, as well as building their reputation and brand.

Scientists and researchers in particular can use it to inform their members and educate the public about new research and discoveries about their lives. When used carefully, social media can be a tool for promoting science and health literacy among the general public. Otherwise, social media used in a malicious way can spread misinformation and have harmful consequences.

Social media appeal

Indu Partha, MDClinical Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona Medical School – Tucson Department of Medicine, is an active Twitter user.

In addition to his personal account, @InduParthaHe oversees many other accounts such as Dr. Partha @SundayWIMCchatwhich provides a space for women in medicine to discuss internal medicine issues and @primarycarechat, which organizes weekly interviews with primary care providers, where they delve into a variety of medical topics. Another Twitter account overseen by Dr. Partha, @UAWomenAcadMedProvides space for mentoring, networking, and career development for women in medical school – Tucson faculties

Indu Partha, MD

“I think social media allows for amazing connections across the country,” Dr. Partha said. “I love being able to ‘get in’ with colleagues and experts who live on the other side of the United States who wouldn’t normally know anything about my daily life in Tucson.”

“I think a lot of people associate social media with negative connotations, a false sense of a perfect life, beautiful photos and something superficial,” he added. “I encourage people to take a closer look at how professionals can open up social media.”

Dr. Deepta BhattacharyaCollege of Medicine – Professor of Immunobiology at Tucson, said that he finds social media, and especially the way consumers live on Twitter, very attractive. Dr. Bhattacharya’s Twitter page he devotes much space to his research, which examines the responses of antibodies to infections and vaccines.

“I think I’ve had my Twitter account since 2016, but I almost never logged in and didn’t tweet anything until the spring of 2020,” explained Dr. Bhattacharya, a member of the BIO5 Institute.

Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya

“At the time, I was very frustrated with some of the pandemic news coverage because I thought they were doing a lot of basic immunology, such as matching COVID-19 with AIDS. I felt that Twitter was a site that allowed me and other immunologists to respond.

“Interestingly, as I started tweeting and as my number of followers increased, I started receiving requests for interviews from journalists. I really underestimated how science journalists used Twitter as a guide to decide who to interview. I’m not sure if this is the best model for choosing sources, but overall I think they’ve done a much better job of choosing people with the right specialization. “

In fact Bellal Joseph, MDUniversity of Medicine – Tucson, Trauma Division, Critical Surgical Care, Head of Burns and Acute Care Surgery, Connecting with people around the world, sharing knowledge and learning the perspectives of others are the main reasons for using social media. Twitter.

“I post on Twitter for a variety of reasons,” Dr. Joseph explained. “Sometimes it’s an expression of my feelings or thoughts, other times it’s meant as tutoring, coaching or lessons. There is a section dedicated to science research, medicine, and current trends, and I often seek the opinions of people around the world. There is also a social aspect to building relationships with many thinkers and people across the country. Finally, personal and family messages are meant to show people that we are all the same. My job is to humanize rather than create division. ”

Building trust

Dr. Joseph’s Twitter account proudly shows that a public interest account is authentic (confirmed identity), outstanding (associated with a well-recognized person or brand) and active (with a record of Twitter compliance) with the coveted blue badge. ).

Bellal Joseph, MD

“Building trust comes with time and content,” explains Dr. Joseph, who is also a professor of neurosurgery. “It’s important to keep my thoughts and feelings real. The certified blue badge also checks me to make sure I’m tweeting and the standard that got me to that point. ”

Dr. Partha’s vision for building trust with his followers is simple: be genuine. “I make an effort to be real on the net,” he said. “My online presence indicates who I really am as ‘personal.’

Loyalty to science is also the view of Dr. Bhattacharya. “I try to limit my tweets to my area of ​​expertise – immunology,” he said. “My style is more about informing than trying to convince people to do something on their own. The goal is to try to give people accurate information so that they can make the right decision on their own. I don’t care about polarizing public health recommendations or policies, because that’s not my area of ​​expertise, and it would be the other way around. “

Dealing with science denials and misinformation

Dr. Partha said that when he is invading the social networks of misinformation disseminators and deniers of science, he has been lucky. “I’m not in a position to defend science, thankfully,” he said.

“Occasionally, I get an anonymous bot or troll-type account that tweets something snarky, but I ignore these,” Dr. Bhattacharya said. “They don’t affect others and it’s not worth it to engage their profiles by engaging them.”

Dam Hee Kim, Dr.

As a daily Twitter user for a wider audience, Dr. Joseph has found a way to address this issue. “Over time, I’ve come to realize that when I come into contact with theoretical conspiracies, it’s different than associating with those who question science. As a scientist, I question everything we do every day, but I look at data and literature to find help. I try not to read the tweets of people who are only involved in theoretical conspiracies or controversy. Often, the best thing is to focus on my brand and my message, ”he said.

Dam Hee Kim, Dr.As an assistant professor in the Arizona Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences Communications, she researches how people share and share news and politics on social media.

“On social media, there is no need for editorial filtering or fact-checking before anyone publishes information,” Dr. Kim said. “Information, right and wrong, is presented along with entertainment and social content on social media, which makes it challenging for users to distinguish events from opinions and false information.”

Ongoing research by Dr. Kim found that social media encouraged the anti-cradle movement by facilitating misconceptions about COVID-19, such as the excessive deaths of COVID. “These misconceptions are linked to vaccine prevention,” Dr. Kim said. “In social media feeds, it is likely that users will find information that social media algorithms would like, share with, or agree with.”

If users’ beliefs and perspectives can be strengthened when they rely on social media for information, how should scientists deal with misinformation?

“It’s important for health scientists to share the right health information on their social platforms and encourage more social media users to actively participate in it by commenting and sharing it with others,” Dr. Kim said. “As the number of engagements in scientifically informed publications increases, the social media algorithm will push these messages further to reach a wider audience.”

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