I admit that I have always been reluctant to embrace social media for various reasons. How much of your life are you willing to share online, knowing that it is available for viewing by your patients and future employers indefinitely? Furthermore, as an introvert, I have always been more comfortable with a small circle of close friends and I find small talk and superficial relationships exhausting. What quality of relationships can one create online, I often wondered?
However, with the COVID-19 pandemic altering the way we interact with one another, the dwindling opportunities of in-person professional networking, and the ensuing isolation of a cycle of “work-sleep-repeat,” a close friend urged me to join Twitter. With the inability to attend an in-person ASCO Annual Meeting this year, I finally joined Twitter last May mainly to follow the #ASCO20 updates. Initially, my plan was to deactivate the account following the conclusion of the conference. And yet, here I am 5 months later, dedicating my monthly column to discussing the benefits of Twitter from the perspective of a trainee/early-career hematologist oncologist!
Here are a few things I love about it.
1. It transforms the experience of attending virtual conferences.
It is difficult to follow along with a major conference when there are multiple lectures to stream and hundreds of posters to view. The amount of information is staggering and can be overwhelming to filter through. I also found that I sorely missed interactions in the auditorium hall and discussions with colleagues. Twitter offers you an alternative platform, however, to directly follow researchers in your areas of interest and to engage with them. Following a conference’s hashtag (such as #ASCO20) allows you to track, at your own pace, various posts and highlights from that event.
2. There is a wealth of networking, collaboration, and mentorship opportunities between individuals and institutions both nationally and globally.
Often, it might be difficult to find a mentor in a specific niche within your own institution. Twitter introduces you to an array of talented individuals in other institutions and offers an opportunity to collaborate on various academic initiatives.
One successful collaboration that comes to mind is the COVID-19 and Cancer Consortium (CCC19) Registry (@COVID19nCCC). This consortium of over 120 cancer centers and other organizations was founded via Twitter conversations and collaborations and its purpose is to “collect and disseminate prospective, granular, uniformly organized information on people with cancer who are diagnosed with COVID-19—at scale and as rapidly as possible.”
3. It introduces you to new ways of learning and helps you stay up to date in the field.
For the busy professional, bombarded with an ever-evolving landscape of medical advances, it can be useful to quickly glance at new research articles and ideas through Twitter, bookmarking them for a later in-depth review. Hashtags like #MedTwitter, #HemePath, #MedStudentTwitter, and #AcademicTwitter can provide relevant posts.
Creative ways of disseminating information to learners continue to evolve online. One example that comes to mind is @HOJournalClub, a hematology oncology virtual journal club that meets monthly and invites a key expert with moderation from the faculty and creators Dr. Devika Das (@DevikaDasMD), Dr. Martina Murphy (@DrMMurphy), and Dr. Elizabeth Henry (@DocLHenry).
I also enjoy following certain hematology oncologists who post educational “tweetorials” and threads that can be a quick way of learning about certain topics. Some examples include Dr. Angela Weyand (@acweyand), Dr. Vinay Prasad (@VPrasadMDMPH), and Dr. David Steensma (@DavidSteensma).
4. It serves as a forum for disseminating your research.
While it is impossible to quantify how much academic research is published, some estimates report up to a staggering 2 million scientific articles annually. Often, we turn to curated resources, like newsletters from professional societies, for important articles in the field. However, social media is increasingly utilized by many as one tool to remain informed with emerging research. There is a growing body of literature about Twitter’s positive impact on research dissemination and citations.1,2
5. It is an invaluable tool for your job search during the current travel restrictions.
As stressful as a job search can be, it has been more so during the COVID-19 pandemic, hindering your ability to make contacts in person or travel freely outside your state. Social media provides a vital platform for virtual networking and learning about potential positions at other institutions. Professional introductions previously held during annual meetings are now held via Twitter chats and follow-up emails.
Likewise, for those seeking residency and fellowship positions, Twitter provides a means to learn about prospective programs that you are no longer able to visit in person.
6. It can help you stay informed regarding upcoming conferences, webinars, and relevant deadlines.
I personally find it impossible to catch up with the flood of emails regarding various webinars and conferences. To some extent, it might be easier to rely on recommendations from online Twitter friends about upcoming events that I would be interested in.
Following organizations like the ASCO (@ASCO), Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation (@ConquerCancerFd), the American Society of Hematology (@ASH_hematology), and the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (@sitcancer) allows me to stay informed of their latest events.
7. Most important for me was finally finding my tribe through Twitter connections!
I never expected to make such deep and profound connections with people I have yet to meet in real life. The amazing communities of #MedTwitter and #WomenInMedicine and groups such as @HemOncWomenDocs and @WIMChatSunday have introduced me to an incredible support system of likeminded individuals. I have built a close circle of friendships with people that I now interact with offline, who share similar values and goals and provide indispensable encouragement and mentorship. We elevate, support, and promote each other’s work. As isolating as medical training can be during the difficult months of this pandemic, I am incredibly grateful to have truly found my tribe.
- Klar S, Krupnikov Y, Ryan JB, et al. Using social media to promote academic research: Identifying the benefits of twitter for sharing academic work. PLoS One. 2020;15:e0229446.
- Luc JGY, Archer MA, Arora RC, et al. Does tweeting improve citations? One-year results from the TSSMN prospective randomized trial. Ann Thorac Surg. 2020;S0003-4975(20)30860-2.