So…how can young scholars best navigate social media to expand their voice and impact as scientists and citizens?

The Environmental Change & Governance Group (#ECGGroup) hosted workshop titled ‘Social Media for #environmental #academics’ was a total success!  Graduate students and faculty in the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment united for an afternoon and dispersed from the workshop feeling inspired and enabled to try on the social media outfit!

EV1 221 was completely packed with new and experienced tweeps and bloggers.  The day offered us all many valuable lessons such as panelist Hannah Hoag’s tips for how to engage with social media, including but not limited to: ‘being a Jargon slayer’ to talk beyond your discipline; ‘being ok with mostly right’, by taking away the academic bar for perfection; ‘being the host of the differ party’ by allowing a candid discourse to unfold and handing both support and criticism of your opinion/ideas with grace…

The afternoon breakout discussion groups offered a comfortable venue to discuss some of the barriers that prevent academics from engaging with social media.  Common barriers that are preventing us from trying on social media included…

  1. “ I don’t have time”
  2. “ I’m overwhelmed by the number of tools”
  3. “ I’m afraid to expose incomplete ideas or have my ideas twisted by knaves…”
  4. “ Who cares what I have to say?”

Workshop participants and panelists did offer strategies to deal with these and other barriers and focused on opportunities social media provides. For example; utilizing dashboards and/or filters can be a way to be more efficient and strategic when engaging with social media, in turn decreasing the amount of time required..

Finding the social media tool that works for you could be likened to finding a suitable dress for a dinner party- its ok to ‘try on’ different social media tools (e.g. twitter, tumblr) to find one that fits.

However, unlike that little black dress, there is no wrong way to ‘wear’ social media, as your audience is self-selecting. So just be yourself, be human and enjoy engaging!

Discussions have already started for a follow up workshop examining the role of social media in teaching and learning. Follow ECGG tweeps or the hashtags #ECGGroup and #UWENV to stay tuned!


@kjrathwell and @salexander_11

Post script:  This workshop was made possible by support from Environmental Change and Governance Group; the Center for Ecosystem Resilience and Adaptation; and the Dean’s office, Faculty of Environment.

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