I am so thoroughly excited by social media. It has literally opened up a whole new world of science for me. I learn so much by perusing people's blogs, their tweets, and retweets by scientists they know. It's kind of amazing.
I was trying to explain this to my Dad, a non-scientist, last night on the phone. Twitter is the new town square in some regards. Now my Dad is getting a twitter account, so he can follow all of my new science friends.
In addition to that, I have made new friends and acquaintances on Twitter. These people are catalysts for all kinds of good ideas, because they answer questions I ask or throw ideas out there that I can run with. One important twitter relationship I have developed is with @Colo_kea. She helped me prepare my blog design and first post, which was a massive help. Another is @ugrandite who has been a huge help with all sorts of random questions and problems I have. She's my cheering section. I think I may talk to these two more than I see my advisor (He has a lab group of 14 people, so I am not criticizing him).
I've gotten lots of good advice about my career from these ladies and @ArmedwScience who gave me the low down on American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) fellowships. He also gave me the idea, albeit indirectly, to contact AAAS and see if they could have one of their fellows chat with the members of our NSF GK-12 fellowship when we are in DC for a conference next month. I can't believe that AAAS took me seriously when I tweeted them and asked them about the possibility. I am really excited that they seem interested in spending some time with our graduate students. This is especially important because I am considering applying for an AAAS fellowship when I graduate. Honestly, if it weren't for Twitter's ability to reduce the activation energy required to make contact with people, I am not sure I would have had the ability to put this together in a matter of days. It's really exciting.
I know there are a lot of scientists out there who see social media as a waste of time. I guess, I hope that in writing this, I might convince one scientist out there to take a chance on social media. There is real value in social media tools when you use them correctly, both for scientists and non-scientists alike. Soon @ugrandite, @armedwscience, and @colo_kea will be followed by my Dad, a non-scientist who is interested in all the cool stories I tell him about my science and the scientists I meet in this global marketplace. Then these wonderful people will be able to reach out and inspire him, the way they inspire me and that is the real power of social media. We can reach out and interact with all sorts of people we might never otherwise intersect and thus create ideas that otherwise might go unarticulated.