Social media’s rise is touching every aspect of life, including neurosurgery. Feeling siloed inside your home institution’s neurosurgery department? Are you lost in the ocean of prominent neurosurgeons at annual meetings? Active engagement in social media may be key to expanding your horizon and fostering online relationships that continue face-to-face at regional and national meetings.
Most medical students have an online profile, but the keys to establishing a professional one may feel daunting. A few simple guiding principles can ease the transition. Before anything else, create a high-quality LinkedIn profile. Regularly maintain your LinkedIn site to ensure that it is current and up-to-date. Embed your high-quality LinkedIn account within your Twitter account.
Begin establishing your presence on Twitter by “following” the major neurosurgical journals (@TheJNS), associations (@AANSNeuro, @youngneuros), and academic centers (@BarrowNeuro, @ColumbiaNeuro, @ClevelandClinic). Start a habit of interacting with at least one piece of content per day. As your comfort level increases, begin to generate content with a goal of creating 3-4 original posts per week within areas of interest to you. As you follow these simple steps, you will begin to develop your own following of medical students, neurosurgeons and lay public.
Here are some benefits of utilizing social media to interact with academic neurosurgery as a medical student.
- Stay current with neurosurgical literature. Academic journals frequently tweet about new research articles or important historical articles.
- Having a steady stream of interesting articles delivered directly to your Twitter feed can allow you to engage with articles you may not have discovered on your own.
- Organizations like the Journal of Neurosurgery (JNS) have Twitter hashtags (a method of placing a “#” before a keyword that groups all content containing that hashtag to facilitate a more cohesive conversation) like #JNS_Edu that are specifically geared towards educating medical students and junior residents concerning key neurosurgical topics.
- The Neurosurgical Atlas (@AaronCohenGadol) produces content that is at an appropriate level for interested medical students.
- Interact and network with neurosurgeons outside of your home institution.
- Engage in academic conversations with neurosurgeons you do not know and begin to develop online relationships that can then be cemented at national meetings.
- Disseminate your own research with Twitter and visual abstracts (#VisualAbstracts).
While social media has many potential benefits, caution should always be used when creating content that has the potential of reaching countless people. A few guiding principles:
- If you post images of patients, you must ensure everything you post has been effectively de-identified.
- Do not post content that is especially divisive or political.
- Always read and reread content before you post it — do not lazily re-post content without knowing what you are propagating.
- Maintain a professionalism that is congruent with the title of medical student and neurosurgeon.
For those who are new to these social media platforms these are the first steps into the social media domain of academic neurosurgery. Put your skepticism about social media away and realize the many benefits and rewards of responsibly engaging with neurosurgery via social media.