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  • Foto do escritorStephane Werner

Beyond the feed: the story behind my break from social media science outreach

The year was 2020. I was deeply involved with science outreach using social media. I was everywhere: Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Twitch, Discord. I used to create content everyday, and spent a lot of time on that. I knew how important it was to democratize science in Brazil and instigate critical thinking. I was superhappy because I could see some return, which can be extremely hard. I was gaining thousands of followers every week and had the largest Brazilian astronomy community on Discord.

The year is now 2023. I finished my PhD, was applying for jobs, started a new postdoc, gave talks in many conferences, started to teach and applied for grants. There were too many things going on at the same time. Although I know the importance of doing science outreach, and the importance of using my influence for the good, I had very good reasons to spend less time on social media.

  • Good content is very time consuming. It takes a long time to create content for social media, and at that time I only had time for research and teaching.

  • Science outreach in academia is not considered as important as research. Although recently people are changing their minds regarding this subject, institutionally research is still considered more important than science outreach. It means much more to have more published papers than democratize knowledge. In Brazil, for example, if you want to get more funding, it is better to spend more time publishing papers than teaching or doing science outreach. This makes astronomers spend less time on it.

  • Science outreach on social media is not seen as "work". Also related to the previous fact, some people think you are playing at being an influencer instead of working. Science outreach is work and it is a very important one. As mentioned previously, it is very time consuming and people should be paid for that. This was not my case. I do not receive money to do what I do. Although my youtube channel is monetised, I spent more money investing in material, such as a good microphone, than I really received money back. And scientists, as everyone else, have to pay their bills and need money to survive. I was happy to work for free at 2020, because I had the feeling I had to return to society the knowledge public universities gave me (UFRJ and USP). However, it is not supposed to be like that.

  • It can affect a lot your mental health. This is very complicated. When you start to reach thousands of people, of course some people will not agree with what you say and this is actually healthy. We are not right all the time and that's fine. Nobody is. However, some people can be very toxic and just opt to comment malicious things that do not add anything to the topic. I've seen scientific communicators being threatened. It is really hard to deal with the internet hate, and this affects other areas in life in the end. In 2023, my mental health improved a lot after spending less time on social media.

I found out it is fine to give a break sometimes when you need to focus on other things and this does not mean I will stop forever or that I think it is not important anymore, of course. Life can be chaotic sometimes and we have to adapt ourselves. It was really important for other areas of my life to "give this break" and I am happy with my choice.

Although my priority is still research, this year I will try to be a bit more active on social media and create new content again.

Keep following me on social media to see how it goes! :)

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