Direction vs. Distraction

Reflecting on Behaviors and Goals

@SusannaLHarris

Direction vs. Distraction

When passion and work overlap, it’s hard to figure out when a “direction” becomes a “distraction.” It’s okay to step back, re-evaluate, reset, and keep going.

. . .

Founding PhD Balance* in 2018 wasn’t about building a name.

It was to connect people who had common struggles and wanted to support each other. When I started the PhD Balance Instagram page, I had a few hundred followers on my own account and a twitter with maybe 5 tweets. As I started running the page, though, I realized I could also use my own spaces to promote this work and practice my science communication.

Of course, there were questions (from friends, family, coworkers, mentors) about whether spending time on social media was a good idea. As a grad student, any spare room “should” have been meant for professional development OR self-care activities . . . that would ultimately make me more efficient as a student and scientist. I always thought it was strange that a fellow grad student could say they ran every day for exercise and be lauded for their determination, but my work on social media was a distraction.

I knew this was false. Would social media help me get a postdoc position or publish a paper or speed up my lab work? Probably not. But it was a way for me to find motivation to slog through the final experiments and connect with others who were struggling through the writing stage of their dissertation. My goals of engaging in science communication and graduate student support were benefited by my presence on social media, and others with different tracks might not see that.

. . .

I know the time spent on social media has been a net positive for my growth and development because I’d stopped several times to outline where I wanted to be and how this effort would help get me there. But at some point, social media stopped being so much about sharing my work in scicomm and advocacy and became more of a way to avoid the work itself.

In so many ways, engaging in social media has benefited me personally and professionally.

I’ve gained many of my closest friends in grad school through Instagram, found work opportunities through Twitter, and learned so much from guests on Grad Chat. On top of all this, working on PhD Balance has been the most fulfilling part of my grad school experience. I wouldn’t take any of it back if I could, but it’s time for a reset.

I’ll be stepping away from my own social media channels for the rest of July to figure out where to redraw the line between social media supporting my direction and it becoming a distraction.

In my time away from social media, my goals are to:
1. Reinvest in relationships. Maintaining close connections takes time and effort (especially in today’s world), but these relationships are crucial to fulfillment, growth, and mental health. I want to set aside time each day to have full conversations and share more with the people in my inner circle.
2. Create. Write. Explore. Instead of quick consumption, I want to actually read full articles and learn new things and expand my own skill set. From filming and editing videos to writing more posts to working on PhD Balance, I want to walk away from this month with things I can point to and say “I did that, and it’s not perfect, but it didn’t exist before.”
3. Focus on work. I love my work, both as a science communicator and marketer. While my part-time job with Grant Engine and my role as CEO of PhD Balance each require some time on social media, this differs greatly from my own personal platforms. Instead of scattering around and posting what comes to mind, I want to understand how entire strategies are built and maintained that support a company brand.

. . .

TLDR: Work-from-home life + graduation hangover + pandemic stress = social media has taken up far more space and time in my life than is good for my own progress. I want to change that. In the meantime, you can check out this article about complexities of microbial interactions for Biotechniques and get excited for the scicomm/advocacy/etc work I’ll be focusing on!.

Until next time,
Susanna

DO YOU LIKE THE MAGNETS?? cool! Genius Lab Gear is helping us raise some money by selling these little kits. Go check ’em out!

Posted: July 15, 2020

*PhD Balance actually started out as PhDepression, because I was a PhD student. . . with Depression. . . get it? Anyway, a full community developed around the page who wanted to discuss all types of difficult topics in academia, and PhD Balance better fit the new goals of creating spaces for graduate students to learn from shared experiences. My amazing team eventually sold me on the name change about a year ago, and I thank them constantly for it.

<- Previous Post ||| Next Post ->

%d bloggers like this: