Using Twitter as an academic public health researcher, with Kira E. Riehm

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In this episode, Sujani is back again with Kira Riehm, a psychiatric epidemiologist and a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. This time, they talk about using Twitter as a tool for public health professionals and the benefits and opportunities the platform has in store.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why Kira first started to use Twitter for professional purposes
  • What Kira mainly uses Twitter for and how she navigates through the platform
  • How Kira’s usage of Twitter changed since the pandemic when a lot of interactions went virtual 
  • How others working in public health have used Twitter 
  • How Twitter can be used to find various career opportunities and build professional relationships
  • How Kira found her postdoc work through Twitter
  • What challenges using Twitter professionally may present
  • How Twitter differs from LinkedIn as a platform for public health professionals and researchers

Today’s Guest:

Kira is a psychiatric epidemiologist and a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. The primary aim of her research is to understand the causes, correlates, and consequences of mental health disorders among adolescents. Drawing on a wide variety of data sources, she designs research studies that involve the application of rigorous epidemiologic methods to answer pressing questions about youth mental health and substance use. Her work has been published in JAMA Psychiatry, Pediatrics, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, and American Journal of Public Health.

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Episode Transcript

Kira 0:00
It’s a tool that you can have in your toolbox if you choose to make it one, everyone networks’ differently, everyone access to information differently and finds different things to be useful.

Sujani 0:13
Welcome to PH SPOTlight, a community for you to build your public health career with. Join Us Weekly right here. And I’ll be here too, your host Sujani Siva from PH SPOT.

Sujani 0:29
Hi, Kira. Good morning. And welcome again to our podcast. This is exciting. You know, I don’t have many guests who are repeat guests on the podcast. So it’s wonderful to speak to someone again in such a short time line as well.

Kira 0:44
Well, I’m really glad I made the call. I had a great time talking to you last time. And I’m so thrilled to do it again. So thanks for having me back.

Sujani 0:50
Amazing. Yeah. And for our listeners, Kira was on our podcast, May 18. So if you’re looking for Kira’s career journey, and what she’s been up to, that’s episode 65 for our listeners. So I’m going to link that in our show notes. So you can get to learn a bit about Kira. And on that episode, we had open the can of worms around Twitter and the use of Twitter for like public health and professional development and pique my interest because as I was telling Kira, Twitter is something that I definitely need to learn because I don’t understand it. So Kira, being someone who uses it avidly. I invited her to come and teach us a little bit about it and her experience using Twitter.

Kira 1:36
Yeah, I’m excited to talk about it. I don’t know if I would, if I would call myself a Twitter expert. But I have really enjoyed using it over the past few years in academic settings. And so yeah, happy to- Happy to share what I’ve learned.

Sujani 1:46
Awesome. Okay, so let’s take you back to the very beginning. So I don’t know, if you kind of experienced the same thing as me where you like, set up an account, it sits there, and then you try to go back on for- For a while and then abandon it for a little bit longer, and then try to get on again. Or if you like, set up your account and just jumped right into it and have had like such a great experience since day one. curious to hear when you started to use Twitter, was the intent that you kind of set up Twitter the same as it is today?

Kira 2:24
I think actually, I followed kind of more of the latter path that you described. So like jumping in from day one, I guess. I mean, it was voluntary, of course. But it was in response to I was publishing an article at the time in JAMA psychiatry. So like quite a high profile journal. And in their submission system, they ask you for a Twitter handle, because they have a Twitter account. And they’ll- they’ll tweet about your article, and they’ll find your account in their tweets, if you have one. I was kind of familiar with Twitter, I didn’t really know much about the academic community on Twitter. But when I saw that on the submission system, this was like in my second year of my PhD, I decided it would be like- it would be a good opportunity to get my name out there. I made a Twitter account specifically for the purpose of being able to provide a Twitter handle to the psychiatry. That worked out really nicely. That was kind of like a good impetus to start using it. And it was, I think it was good too. Because in retrospect, like I had something to post about from day one. It didn’t feel like I just made an account and let it sit there I guess.

Sujani 3:23
Okay, very, very cool. And then yeah, what motivated you to keep coming back on, after you had like, submitted that application? And, yeah, well, what kind of hooked you on to Twitter?

Kira 3:36
Definitely the academic community was much bigger than I had anticipated. And just being able to see what was going on at other universities was really interesting. And just being able to keep up with my professors both at Hopkins at the time, and then just kind of kind of elsewhere. I’ve found a lot of articles on Twitter over the years, I don’t think I would have located in my literature searches otherwise that have been really, really handy for my work. And once I sort of realized the utility of Twitter, in that sense, started being something that I checked on, on a really regular basis.

Sujani 4:09
From day one. Were you tweeting like were you already writing posts on your own? Or were you doing more like retweets and commenting and things like that?

Kira 4:19
That’s a good question. I still think I probably at the beginning, because my Twitter account was initially organized around that singular article. And that article got actually a lot of press attention. And so there were a lot of things that were floating around that I was tagged in that were easy for me to retweet and put my name out there. And so yeah, I feel like to this day, probably most of my content is just retweets and likes, but I will occasionally post my own stuff. I think the thing that I like about Twitter is that you can- you can cultivate a really specific identity for yourself. Some people keep it purely academic and don’t post anything about their personal lives. I kind of bridge that gap a little bit. For example, I ran. I know we were talking about this earlier, but I I also ran a half marathon this past weekend, like I posted about that on Twitter because I was really proud about my results. And running is a big part of my identity. And so I like- I like introducing that to my profile on Twitter and just giving people a sense of who I am outside of academia is the goal there, I guess.

Sujani 5:16
Yeah, I think like any social media account, you can be selective in terms of like, which aspects of your professional and personal life you want to share. It’s like, just because you want to share something personal doesn’t mean it needs to be 100%. All about like your personal life. And there are things that you can protect and keep to yourself. And I agree, you know, with running being such an important part of your work and your work, also kind of focusing on mental health and like physical activities, such a huge, huge, huge piece of mental health. So I’d see kind of that being like both a professional and personal thing.

Kira 5:54
Yeah, I don’t want people to just think of me as purely academic. Like, I want people to have a sense of what my life looks like outside of that, too. I just think it makes academia more approachable. I think it makes us seem more realistic. We’re researchers, but we also have other lives as well. And on Twitter, I’ve found that you can show both sides of your life.

Sujani 6:14
Yeah, no, agreed. And just to kind of clarify to our listeners, when you said the word, I also ran a half marathon. I don’t want people thinking that I run because I do not. We were talking about another individual who’s running a half marathon.

Kira 6:29
You had an opportunity there. Sujani.

Sujani 6:31
I know, right? Like maybe-

Kira 6:34
Yeah. Oh, man, I would have taken that if I were you.

Sujani 6:38
No, it is part of like, one of my life goals or bucket list items is I need to run at least a half marathon one day.

Kira 6:46
I ran my first one because someone I was working with at the time was running one. And I remember saying, oh, there’s no way I could ever do that. She said, oh, well, you’re pretty fit. Do you think you could run 10k today? And I said, yeah, for sure. I could run 10k today, she’s like, well, then you should run the half the 10k is going to be too easy for you. And I took that as a personal challenge.

Sujani 7:04
Yeah.

Kira 7:05
And then I wanted to run the half marathon just to show her I could do it. Now I run half marathons on a regular basis, I really enjoy them. So anyway, I believe in you, and I know you have it in you, and I’m excited to cheer you on whenever the time comes.

Sujani 7:19
Okay, the pressure is on. Okay, and I’m sure people are like, oh, I want to- I want to see this on Kira’s Twitter page. So yeah, going back to kind of setting up your account and your Twitter handle. You didn’t choose your name, you have a bit of creativity going on in there. So I want to- I want to ask you about that.

Kira 7:40
Oh, I guess what does it say? Just KERiehm?

Sujani 7:43
Yeah. I guess your handle is your initials KER, and then your last name spelled out.

Kira 7:50
I think I wanted to keep my Twitter handle short at the time. I guess this was quite a few years ago. Now. I’m trying to remember exactly what my logic was. I mean, I really I really liked my middle name. My middle name is Eleanor. And I’ve always really liked that. And I made sure that all the articles I published have KER in them just so it’s like really easy to find on PubMed and get indexed. Not that there’s any other KERiehms out there. That would be really surprising to me, because my last name is very, very rare. Yeah, it just I think it’s, I mean, I hate saying this, because it sounds really like, I don’t know why, but it’s part of building a brand. And just, I guess, keeping it consistent across different social media platforms, you know, this super well. But it’s not just one social media platform anymore. There’s LinkedIn, there’s Twitter, there’s Instagram, there’s all these different platforms, people have said that it’s important to use the same profile picture, use the same form of your name, just so that people come to connect all your accounts together, and they know who you are. And it’s more well rounded, I guess.

Sujani 8:48
Yeah, no, I agree with that. And yeah, I think like building a brand kind of has a bad connotation, just because I guess it’s- It’s not talked about too much in like, public health and professional development. But I think there is importance there. And especially if you’re trying to establish yourself as an expert in a specific area of public health, it makes so much sense that you are discoverable. And then that way you do have opportunities to collaborate and find other opportunities for yourself and, you know, share opportunities with others. And I personally have been experimenting on LinkedIn the same way I guess you have been on Twitter. And yeah, I think they’re one of my motivations is kind of like, how many people can I impact with the posts that I write and it’s been fun. I mean, like just sitting there thinking about, like, what are the struggles people have and then creating a post and takes me almost two weeks to write a post and then when I do eventually publish it, it’s nice to kind of see new people interacting with it, liking it, and then following me for more content, and then even like messaging me to say, like, this has been super helpful. You just keep doing that. And yeah, I think there is like an element of wanting to build a brand and I guess an identity around being someone who can connect you to Career Resources. That’s the brand I’m trying to build over there on LinkedIn and curious to hear for you. What is that sort of brand that you’re trying to build either on Twitter or across other social media platforms?

Kira 10:25
Good question. I mean, I think it changes a little bit from time to time, I’m sort of still new to LinkedIn, I’m kind of working through it. Not really sure what I’m doing there, would love your advice. But Twitter, I know better. I think on Twitter, I’m trying to be I’m certainly trying to promote my research and be academic and maintain that part of my identity. But I also I’m trying to be fun.

Sujani 10:46
Yeah.

Kira 10:46
Realistically, I’m just trying to be a fun person. I think people in academia can sometimes take themselves really seriously. And it’s, it’s nice that Twitter is there where you can just post just little tidbits of your day to day life and make jokes and people find them funny. And it’s just I think, I think it just makes you seem more approachable and like someone that people want to work with, I guess. I think I’m trying to cultivate my identity as a fun academic, I thought I would say like I, I’m looking at my Twitter right now. And just some of the things I posted in the past. And yeah, I posted things about running, I posted photos of my cat. Yeah, it’s fun. And I also like I make a point of pointing out a lot on Twitter that I’m Canadian, because that’s also an important part of who I am. And so yeah, I include that as well.

Sujani 11:31
I like that fun, academic. I support that brand yet.

Kira 11:35
Yeah, I think it’s important. I want people to feel that academia is more approachable, Twitter, so visible. And I feel like, maybe not always. But when I do meet people in real life, based just on what I know, from their Twitter or other interactions I have with them like they usually line up pretty well in terms of my expectations, especially with the pandemic, making it harder to meet people in person. It’s been nice to have this platform to advertise yourself, I guess.

Sujani 12:00
I’m curious to hear whether your interaction or usage of Twitter has changed dramatically since the pandemic or has it kind of just stayed consistent since you started it.

Kira 12:13
I think my Twitter has definitely become more political since the pandemic started. I mean, it’s certainly not true across the board and public health, like there are disagreements within the field. But I’m pretty firmly of the opinion that we’re rolling back protections way too fast. We’re leaving a lot of people, especially children under five and immunocompromised folks and older adults, we’re leaving a lot of them very vulnerable to COVID infections. And it’s hard for me to process that this like return to normal when we’re approaching almost a million deaths in the US, which is just staggering and nauseating. I think I’ve tried to use my Twitter platform more to amplify the voices of people who are really actively working on that field. Because I’m not an infectious disease epidemiologist, I don’t have, I don’t have the best understanding of that area. But I can amplify the voices of professors and researchers in that area, who frequently are pushing back on the rollback of protections, for example, that’s something I use my platform a lot to do. Another thing that I did this was- this was about a year ago now, I unexpectedly got involved in when the COVID vaccines were initially being rolled out and getting an appointment was still extremely difficult. I unexpectedly got really involved in helping people sign up for vaccine appointments. And so I think over the course of about two months, I ended up helping about 140 150 people access vaccine appointments, which was really great. And I actually posted about this on Twitter explicitly for the purpose of getting other volunteers to come help me out. There was like a big group of volunteers that I was connected to, and I actually had some people respond and helped me out and also help other people sign up for appointments. But that’s obviously not something I never could have anticipated using- using Twitter for. Yeah, it’s- it’s just little- little things like that were having, having a following of almost 700 people, which is really not that big of a following, but unexpectedly comes into play when I least expected I guess.

Sujani 14:11
Yeah.

Kira 14:11
Is what I’m trying to say,

Sujani 14:12
How did that happen? And what do you mean, like unexpectedly ended up doing this?

Kira 14:18
I think the takeaway there for probably listeners would be, I’ve had a couple of posts on Twitter, maybe like a handful of them get almost 400 likes or retweets, or whatever. And it’s usually really unexpected, which ones that happens too, like I can tweet something that I think is super funny, and no one pays attention. But then sometimes I tweet something and everyone kind of latches on to it and I get really good advice from other folks or unexpectedly is propelled into the academic space. I think there’s probably a couple takeaway messages from that. One of the messages would be don’t underestimate the influence you can have and how wide reaching your network is. You never know when something is gonna get big. The other side of the coin with that the other take home message for that is you never know when something’s going to get big. So you also have to be careful about what you post, it’s a really fine line to walk. And like I said, some academics don’t really post anything from their personal lives. And that’s, of course, their decision. And I totally respect that. Whereas others post a lot more than I do. It’s really variable. But everyone needs to decide what’s right for them. And just know that whatever you post, sometimes people interact with things really unexpectedly. And so just make sure you’re comfortable with whatever happens, I guess.

Sujani 15:30
Yeah, that’s a good kind of mention here. I think we can get very excited about wanting to use Twitter and like all the great things about it. But it’s also important to keep in mind that yeah, when you do have exposure that you have to be careful with what comes with that type of exposure and large following as well.

Kira 15:50
Yeah, I don’t know if I have anything more to say about that topic, specifically. But yeah, I just I don’t- I don’t think ‘Be careful’ is the right way of framing it. But just be thoughtful about what you’re posting.

Sujani 16:00
Yeah.

Kira 16:01
Is more how I would frame it.

Sujani 16:02
Yeah, no, absolutely. Okay, so we talked about, you know, you being fun on Twitter, sharing your research work. And then also kind of amplifying the voices of other researchers and professors who are perhaps like advocating for issues that you’re not focusing on, but you do support their work. curious to hear other individuals that you follow. And the type of stuff that I guess they use Twitter for? And like, do you have someone that you use as an example? And you’re like, okay, I like to curate my Twitter to look like theirs or maybe even like, use some of the techniques that they’re using?

Kira 16:41
Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, I’m looking again, looking at my Twitter right now, I follow 550 people. And I think it would be hard for me to probably pick out really specific people, one person that comes to mind immediately, not someone who I’ve actually ever met in person, and I don’t know if she would even know who I am. But Julia Raifman, who I think is a professor at Boston University, she’s an assistant professor there. She tweets consistently all the time about equity with regards to the COVID 19 pandemic, and just making sure our policies are equitable, and making data driven decisions regarding different protections and communities. And I think Twitter can be a really angry and critical place sometimes, and people can be really negative about nearly everything. But I think Julia’s Twitter is a great example of how Twitter, she consistently advocates for just bringing people together and making better decisions that suit the health needs of everyone, especially addressing the health needs of the most vulnerable during the pandemic, the language that she uses is, is just unconditionally positive. And it’s all about coming together. It’s not divisive, it’s about it’s about making decisions that are right for everyone. And I think that the way that she phrases, things and frames, things has been really great to see on my timeline on Twitter. She’s probably one of the people who I most consistently retweet and whose- whose tweets I almost unconditionally, like, I don’t always agree with everything everyone else says. But with Dr. Raifman, you can pretty much guarantee that I’m gonna like her tweets. I would say she’s a great example of someone who is using their platform really, really positively.

Sujani 18:20
Oh, that’s awesome. We’ll definitely link up her Twitter profile for those who are curious and interested in following Dr. Raifman as well. And unfortunately, she does not follow PH SPOT. So we’ll have to poke her so that she does hear.

Kira 18:35
She follows- she follows me. So maybe

Sujani 18:38
There you go. There you go. Okay.

Kira 18:40
Yeah. And her- her and I have slightly similar research interests. She’s done stuff related to mental health. And she’s, I believe she’s an epidemiologist. Maybe I can- I can. Here’s another Twitter phrase, I can slide into her DMs and let her know that I talked about her.

Sujani 18:56
There you go. Exactly. Yeah. Do you see kind of your colleagues and peers that you’re working with? Or even like, I guess your cohort? Using Twitter? Yeah, I guess I’m curious to hear like, is that something that’s encouraged? I know, you know, you said you chose to start a Twitter profile, because it was a request on one of the applications for your publication. But curious to hear how much I guess encouragement there is in academia in terms of using Twitter, especially as a researcher.

Kira 19:27
I think it’s becoming encouraged more and more, I wouldn’t say that it’s super common. I’ve encountered a lot of people who are very resistant to the idea of even getting on Twitter, even just with a personal account. And honestly, I hear that I really do. I think I’m a pretty big advocate for using Twitter for academic purposes. But I have also, especially during the beginning of the pandemic, like I definitely had to take a break from Twitter. I just I could not deal with the level of uncertainty and I don’t think it was fear mongering. I think people were genuinely trying to spread information about COVID but it was just so uncertain at the time that I, I just couldn’t be constantly being fed negative anxiety inducing information through Twitter. So I’ve had to take a step back from time to time and just delete the app off my phone and like, really try not to access it. I can definitely relate to why people are reluctant to get on Twitter at all. I feel like people are either on it or they’re not. There’s kind of there’s not really in between. I think everyone uses it differently. I think I’m on the spectrum of on Twitter versus not on Twitter. I’m definitely on Twitter. I think I use it probably more than most of the other academics I know. I think for me, too. It was I mean, it was initially something that I got for academic purposes. But I also follow some of my friends on Twitter and I have, we send each other funny things. And I don’t really, I don’t really make an active effort to, to read the news, which is maybe not great. But I’m happy to admit that. But I think Twitter has been really good for me to be able to keep up with at least big news items. It’s been really good for me to keep up with that. So that’s been- been good for me.

Sujani 21:02
And then like I guess, yeah, meeting people and networking people through Twitter, you mentioned that you were able to connect with someone that you look up to like Dr. Raifman. Are there any other examples? Or maybe yeah, a little bit about the professional relationships that you’ve been able to build through the platform just to give our listeners a peek into what is possible on Twitter, kind of it’s not just about consuming information and sharing information. But there is I guess, relationships that could be built and you also mentioned like an opportunity that came up because of Twitter. So I think that’ll be an interesting conversation to have for the next little while.

Kira 21:42
Yeah, so I guess with regards to my postdoc, I think before I was on Twitter, I obviously knew what was going on at Hopkins really well. And then the pandemic hit. And it made it really hard to learn about what was going on outside of Hopkins just because there weren’t in person conferences anymore. And there weren’t opportunities to be introduced to anyone outside of your own institution. And so I think that was kind of a turning point for when I started to leverage Twitter a bit more. Maybe it’ll be surprising for listeners to hear that I see a lot of postdocs, a lot of research assistant positions being advertised on Twitter that I don’t see being advertised anywhere else. And I think people trying to leverage their academic networks here to get like minded people to join their teams. That was a really critical point for me to be using Twitter, especially during the pandemic, when other avenues for networking were taken away. To be clear, like I’m actually this might- this is surprising to people listening, but I’m actually quite introverted. I need a lot of time alone. And I don’t like the thought of networking is like good, like gross, I hate that. It’s not like a thing that I like doing. But I’ve found Twitter to be a really good tool for that. Because I think a lot of the networking I do is it’s on my terms. It’s not like I have to show up to a conference and be on for three days networking the entire time. And then it’s over. I can very deliberately craft messages and think really carefully about who to reach out to. I think that’s why I like it as a networking tool is because I can do my networking on my own terms and within my own boundaries. And so the way that that came into play with my postdoc, I’m just remembering now is, once I knew that I wanted to do a postdoc and I was ready to go on a postdoc market. I just posted on Twitter and said, hi, I’m wrapping up my PhD, I’m ready to start a postdoc between this and this month. Please reach out to me if you have any opportunities. And on that post Kerry Keyes, who is at Columbia, and who’s my current mentor. She has a great Twitter as well. I love the things that Kerry Keyes posts, she commented on my Twitter post with a GIF of Kim Kardashian might be one that you’re familiar with. It’s like Kim Kardashian, like popping her head out of a book. It’s a pretty funny joke.

Sujani 23:52
Yeah.

Kira 23:53
Like she’s like, do you know what I’m talking about?

Sujani 23:54
Yeah, yeah.

Kira 23:55
Yeah. So she commented with that, and then said, oh, there’s a spot opening up on the psychiatric epidemiology training program at Columbia. I had no idea that there was a spot opening up on that training grant, I would never have known that otherwise. And from there, I checked the website. And then I saw when the deadline to apply was, and I was able to submit an application from there. And then I interviewed and they picked me, which was really nice.

Sujani 24:18
Yeah.

Kira 24:19
So yeah, I think that that’s just that’s kind of- that’s kind of my classic example of Twitter use gone right. How it’s really worked for me.

Sujani 24:26
That’s- it’s a great example. I’m assuming here that because there was that initial report stablished on Twitter, it was easier for like the interviewers to kind of speak with you at the interview. It’s not a new person that they’re interacting with. So I think that also helps to prepare prospective employers in terms of like who you are as a person. It’s like having this brand already built out.

Kira 24:52
Definitely. Although I will say that both of my interviewers for the postdoc that I am doing at Columbia are actually not on Twitter. I wasn’t interviewed by Kerry, I was interviewed by other people, I still think it was obviously essential to even finding out that that opportunity existed. I don’t know, if people realize just how many opportunities and positions there are advertised exclusively on Twitter. If you can get connected to the right people, it’s really an essential place to learn about these types of things.

Sujani 25:20
The opportunity that you were presented with, was that posted somewhere else as well, or it was kind of an internal PDF document that was just circulating, and you happen to come across it because you made that connection on Twitter?

Kira 25:32
If I recall correctly, it was listed on the Columbia website. But the application form was like it was in a Word document, and it was quite dense. And the deadline for the application wasn’t listed anywhere on the website, you had to download the application form first. And then in like big letters, it was like December 1st, do that. And I was like, oh, my gosh, that’s due so soon. Like, sure, I could have kept track of the pet grant at Columbia, and just looked up on their website when the time came and seen that they had a position open. But I mean, I don’t have time to check every website. And I also think there’s, I’ve since learned that there’s a lot of other psych epi programs that I just didn’t even know existed that I only know about through Twitter. Like, I feel like I have a better sense now which institutions are even conducting psych epi research, generally, and in which schools it’s- it’s a big topic and like what types of environments I might gravitate toward. As a result, it’s maybe hard to verbalize. And sometimes I feel like I spend a lot of time on Twitter. But when I reflect on the time that I spend on Twitter, I realized how much I’ve learned. And I can pick out institutions where I’m like, I know there’s someone there who does like EPI, I know there’s someone there who does like epi. And that’s kind of this implicit knowledge that I gained over time just by being on Twitter, that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, that I think has been really essential for me to understand my field.

Sujani 26:50
Like, I’m curious to compare Twitter and LinkedIn in terms of like, I guess many things. One, is how different public health professionals are engaging on the two platforms and kind of what they’re using it for, I guess, I don’t know, LinkedIn, as well. But I know a little bit better than Twitter, and kind of comment on what I’m seeing there. And then curious to see like, yes, LinkedIn is a platform that was, you know, created for professional use. But I almost think that maybe there are more opportunities on Twitter kind of being shared, just from the brief moments that I’ve kind of spent on Twitter, I agree with you that I have seen many, many opportunities shared on there. Whereas yeah, on LinkedIn, maybe because there’s like a place for jobs to be posted on LinkedIn, like there is a job board that you could post jobs, perhaps people rely on that or are forced to rely on that. Whereas on Twitter, you kind of don’t have a job board, for example. So you tweet it. And it’s kind of like in your face versus LinkedIn where you have to go searching for it. But that’s just based on very minimal information that I’m making that assessment.

Kira 28:09
Yeah, I think for anyone who’s listening, I will say that I’m trying to build my LinkedIn backup. Honestly, I used to have one, but I think it’s improved in more recent years. But I still feel like LinkedIn is really not well suited for people who are in academia.

Sujani 28:18
Why do you say that?

Kira 28:22
Maybe I’m curious, maybe you disagree. But I just feel like it’s not really well organized for me to convey what it is that I do on a day to day basis. It’s structured like a resume, which makes sense. But in academia, we don’t really use resumes we use our like, 25 page, academic CV is, if I realistically wanted to add every single publication I have to LinkedIn, that would take hours. I’m not saying that to be like a flex for like, publications. I just genuinely mean that. It’s like, it’s a little- it’s a little clunky. And I respect it. It’s not easy to put your information online. And I feel like the people I’m interacting with on LinkedIn are very different from the people who I’m interacting with on Twitter. Yeah, I don’t know. They’re just- they’re just slightly different platforms. I think I’m trying to be much more professional on LinkedIn, I don’t think I’m going to be posting anything on LinkedIn related to my personal life, everything I’m posting is going to be like, oh, I’m talking at this conference. Or I’m a part of this webinar, or look, I just published this. It’s not going to be anything about my personal life. I think I’m gonna keep it as professional as possible.

Sujani 29:24
I think. Yeah, yeah, you’re right, because there’s this need to keep things very professional on LinkedIn. That is like the environment that you’re kind of finding yourself in or your posts are finding themselves in. And yeah, I think there’s different intents for both platforms. And now I’m, I’m curious because I pretty sure someone has done this comparison out there in the world. So I’m gonna go digging for it. And I’ll share with you if I find anything.

Kira 29:53
Yeah. I’d be curious to learn too. I mean, I think a lot of academics that I know, don’t even really have LinkedIn, to be honest. whereas the same people can be very active on Twitter. It’s a little confusing, but I’m sure that I’m sure there’s got to be like an anthropological study that we could do about how people use each website.

Sujani 30:10
Yeah, yeah.

Kira 30:11
I’d be curious to hear what other people have to say.

Sujani 30:13
Especially like within the context of public health, right? I am totally differences for different professions or different fields. But yeah, very curious about public health, specifically. And, yeah, that’s something I’m going to dig into. So if anybody has any insights on that, who’s listening, please do share it with us. And we can brainstorm together.

Kira 30:34
Yeah.

Sujani 30:34
Okay. So yeah, any other people that you’ve met through Twitter that has like resulted in something, quote, unquote, offline off of Twitter,

Kira 30:45
I’m not sure I could point to specific people. To be honest. One thing that I do want to convey about the value of Twitter as well is that I’m sort of at this point where I’m contemplating leaving academia. And so I’m like, I’m trying to like ask people, and I think that’s part of the reason why I’m getting involved more on LinkedIn these days is because I’m trying to start cultivating my brand on- on that website, instead. It’s been challenging just because, I mean, the industry world is like a whole new world, there’s just totally different jargon, just totally different ways of conveying things, words, and I just, it’s been overwhelming to try to figure out, I’m just realizing how narrow of a world academia is, I guess, is what I’m trying to say. And I’m in the process of trying to learn more about it. I think the way that Twitter has played a role in this is that I have found it exceptionally easy to message like just cold message people on Twitter, and ask them about their jobs and ask them for advice. I get a response probably every single time, whereas maybe it’s the nature of LinkedIn, and just how many messages people are receiving. But I’ve made a cold message to people on LinkedIn. And I’d say my response rate is probably about 20%, if I’m asking for like an informational interview, or just to hear more about their position, whereas on Twitter, I feel like, probably my response rate is like close to 100%. Like almost everyone responds, that feels much more personable and less rigid, and professional. I’ve gotten just excellent advice from a whole bunch of different people who are posting about the transition into industry, on Twitter. And so I can’t say enough good things about how helpful that type of community and support network has been for learning about industry positions, and what that might look like for my career. I think for people who are listening, yes, of course, Twitter has been essential for my identity as an academic. But also, there are just tons of communities on here, there tons of people who are probably in the same position as you and might be thinking of leaving academia or might be thinking of staying in academia. But you can, you can find someone on here who has gone through what you’re going through. And, you know, if you send them a nice message, they’re probably going to reply. And that’s been really, really nice. Especially when I don’t know anyone in my day to day life, who can really comment on the types of things that I’m thinking about. So I really want to drive home Twitter as a tool to also just create community and get support for decisions you might be trying to make and just gathering information. That’s been really essential to me.

Sujani 33:22
That’s a great point. Have you ever tried to connect with like organizations? And I’m curious to hear if you’ve had good success there as well.

Kira 33:32
That’s an interesting contrast. I feel like on Twitter, I mostly follow individuals.

Sujani 33:37
Okay.

Kira 33:37
I’ve been trying to follow more organizations, but mostly it’s individuals who I end up following. But the opposite is true on LinkedIn, on LinkedIn, I follow lots of companies, I follow tons of different companies and look closely at their posts, and I follow a lot less individuals. I think that maybe that’s just the way that the websites are set up. Like it’s very easy to just add different companies to your list on LinkedIn. Yeah, that’s, that’s an interesting contrast that I hadn’t really thought about until you- until you ask that question. I think it’s easier to follow groups of people on LinkedIn than it is on Twitter. Yeah.

Sujani 34:11
Yeah. And I guess like LinkedIn has this other feature where you can now follow individuals rather than connect with them and have like that two way connection, you know how with Twitter, you can have a one way connection where one person follows the other individual, and you don’t necessarily need to reciprocate that connection. LinkedIn, I think, historically, it has been a two way connection. But I don’t know when this like change happened, where you do have the ability to follow an individual and so you can kind of read the updates that they’re posting and anything that they’re posting on their profile, but you don’t necessarily have to be a connection, if that makes sense.

Kira 34:50
Yeah, I actually really appreciate you saying that because I mean, I like I said before, I only just got back on LinkedIn, and I didn’t really realize that that was a new feature. I’ve been using that actually quite a lot, I guess, as an example, just to give some context, like one area of research that I’m looking into outside of academia is user experience research, especially for like bigger tech companies. And I’m trying to learn more about that field and how my public health and epidemiology skills could apply to that field. And there are quite a few people on LinkedIn who have made that transition in their research. And they actually post a lot about it. But these are like, hugely influential people on LinkedIn, probably like, I don’t know if they’re people who I should be connecting with, per se, because I’m like, why would they have any interest in following me, but it’s really great to be able to just go to their profile, instead of hitting connect, I can hit follow. So that’s been- that’s been really helpful, I would be curious to hear, that’s something I’m also just not really familiar with on LinkedIn is the concept of connecting versus following. I’ve had random people try to connect with me on LinkedIn. And I’m like, is this weird? Do I add them back? I don’t know. Is this like a weird thing to do? I just can’t tell. Like, I feel like I don’t know the norms on LinkedIn as well as I do on Twitter.

Sujani 36:04
No, I couldn’t help you with that question, either. Because I kind of struggling with it. Especially because like, yeah, ever since I started writing more on LinkedIn, I am getting connected with more individuals. And I think people don’t know that there is that follow features. And I think by default, sometimes, when you do go to connect with someone, you’re asking them for a connection request.

Kira 36:27
Right.

Sujani 36:27
And then it’s like hard to go back and withdraw that connection requests to then go and follow them. And like the features that are a bit hidden, so I’ve got like, at any point, like every couple of days, almost like 30-40 people connecting and-

Kira 36:28
Oh, wow.

Sujani 36:30
As a result of PH SPOT, and like listeners of the podcast or community members, and I, of course want to keep in touch with them, or at least like have them follow the content that I’m writing, because they are the audience for that. And so I’m torn between like, yeah, do I connect with all of them? Or do I like encourage them to follow for the time being, I’ve been kind of connecting with everyone and sending them like a follow up message to understand a bit more about like, why they found me and things like that. So it is a bit more work than Twitter, I think like curating the- the people that you’re following and your followers.

Kira 37:18
Yeah, I think the difference too, now that I’m thinking about it is on Twitter, it’s really easy to lurk.

Sujani 37:23
Yeah.

Kira 37:24
Like you don’t need to post anything, you can make a fake account, really easy to do, you can look at anyone’s profile and see what they’re posting and whereas on- On LinkedIn, like I’m paying right now for the premium form of LinkedIn. And I get a notification every time someone looks at my profile, and I know exactly who it is. So I’m, like really hesitant to go to other people’s profiles, even though I’m really curious what their work experience looks like. Because I’m like, do I want them to know that I’m stalking them? Like, I don’t know, is this creepy? I can’t tell like people actually care. Is this something that’ll be I care about? I think on Twitter, you can be a lot less restrained, because it’s so easy to slide under the radar. But that’s much harder on or impossible, really on LinkedIn?

Sujani 38:05
Yeah. Well, here’s a feature that you can change on LinkedIn is that you can turn off that ability for others to see that you’re lurking on them. But then that also disables your ability to see who’s lurking on your profile. So.

Kira 38:19
Right, I yeah, I’m curious, like, what the logic is on that? I don’t know. It’s like a frustrating feature. I’m sure there’s a lot of thought that went into that. But it is it is really interesting. It creates an odd dynamic, I guess.

Sujani 38:31
Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Okay, this has been super interesting. And I’m like looking at the time right now. And it’s almost been an hour since we started chatting. And I am kind of excited about Twitter again. So thank you for that. But that also, like, I am torn between LinkedIn and Twitter. So.

Kira 38:51
I mean, I feel like they’re different communities who are looking for different things. For what it’s worth. I think your posts on LinkedIn are great. I usually try to like them if I can. I feel like you use lots of emojis and hashtags. And it makes it really easy for me to find them. And I find all the emojis really fun. Yeah, so I really liked them for that.

Sujani 39:10
Well, thank you for that. Yeah, I think you’re right. Like, there’s different purposes for both. And yeah, I do miss kind of seeing all the great opportunities, even though I’m not applying to any of them. But it was nice to see and like, share the opportunities that I did come across when I did spend time on Twitter. But if you can set your intention about either platform that you want to use or both, maybe or maybe neither for our listeners, the time that you spend on it does become a lot more pleasant, because you’re not torn between like, okay, why am I here? What am I doing here? And I think like you said, Kira, there was a clear purpose for you to be on Twitter. And I think you also know exactly why you’re spending time on it. Even though it may seem like you are spending a lot of time I think there’s lots of benefits that you’re reaping from it. So I think the purpose of today’s episode wasn’t too much to confuse folks or like even motivate them to like start a Twitter profile or anything, but it’s really to consider it as an option if some of the things that Kira did speak about was aligned with your professional goals.

Kira 40:15
Yeah, 100%, there’s absolutely no need to have a Twitter account, you can be extremely successful in academia or whatever domain you want to go into without a Twitter account. Like, let’s be clear. Yeah, it’s like you were saying, it’s a tool that you can have in your toolbox. If you choose to make it one. Everyone networks differently, everyone access to information differently and finds different things to be useful. If you want to explore Twitter as an option, I would highly encourage it. But if you feel like that wouldn’t be good for your mental health? Because at times it hasn’t been for mine, then then don’t do it.

Sujani 40:48
Yeah.

Kira 40:48
It’s really up to you.

Sujani 40:49
Exactly.

Kira 40:50
I’ve found it to be a great tool.

Sujani 40:52
Yeah. And then maybe I will add that there are organizations and individuals who sometimes will curate their Twitter posts and other Twitter posts on other platforms. And I know I’ve kind of consumed great content that way. And two that come to mind. And I think it may be out of John Hopkins, they have that newsletter, within the public health school, where they kind of at the bottom would like highlight some really neat tweets that they came across for the day. And I think it’s a daily publication, I might be forgetting the name of that newsletter. But that’s one example that comes to mind. And then the- On Canada project as well. They do something similar on Instagram, where they will do a weekly roundup of great tweets related to kind of the like public health and other social issues. So I think you know, there’s other ways that you can consume some of the great tweets that are floating around.

Kira 41:48
Oh, totally. That’s a great tip. That makes a lot of sense.

Sujani 41:51
Well, thanks so much, Kira, for joining us again, and sharing your lessons learned using Twitter. And I will be very curious to hear from our listeners, if anyone ends up getting back on Twitter or even, you know, sharing any anything that they’ve learned using LinkedIn or Twitter. But yeah, thanks so much for joining us.

Kira 42:11
Thank you for having me. I love talking about this stuff. If anyone wants to find me on Twitter or LinkedIn and connect or follow me or whatever the- whatever the norm is, on the respective platform, like please go for it. I’d be happy to connect with anyone who wants to talk more.

Sujani 42:24
Yeah, we’ll link up with both your profile so people can find you.

Kira 42:27
Okay, great. Awesome.

Sujani 42:32
Hey, so I hope you enjoyed that episode. And if you want to get the links and information mentioned in today’s episode, you can head over to pHspot.org/podcast. And we’ll have everything there for you. And before you go, I wanted to let you know about the career program that we run here at PH SPOT. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about building your dream public health career, then we can help you through this program. It’s an intensive hands on training program for early public health professionals. And this includes recent graduates and students. And you can now join the waitlist at pHspot.org/program. And you’ll be notified when the next cohort opens up. And until next time, thank you so much for tuning into PH SPOTlight, and for the invaluable work that you do for this world.

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About the Show

PH SPOTlight: Public health career stories, inspiration, and guidance from current-day public health heroes

On the show, Sujani sits down with public health heroes of our time to share career stories, inspiration, and guidance for building public health careers. From time to time, she also has conversations with friends of public health – individuals who are not public health professionals, but their advice and guidance are equally important.

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