Teaching Moment: Science in Social Media

For my class on Monday, I created and presented a Prezi to teach the class about how science is depicted and shared through social media, with I Fucking Love Science as my case study. For those unfamiliar with the page, which now spans Facebook, TwitterG+, and their own site, IFLS curates content from around the scientific world, from groundbreaking studies to fun comics. I personally find this combination of fun and serious to be refreshing and engaging; I can easily go from a serious article about animal extinction to a snarky article about debunking a conspiracy theory to a silly science cartoon, and they all balance each other out.

I wouldn’t necessarily consider what they do journalism; the site contains original writing, but most of what they do on Facebook and such is the collection and dissemination of external articles. However, I do see some journalistic qualities in their work:

  • Sourcing, both in terms of legitimacy and recognition. IFLS makes sure their sources are known and available to the general public, and even when we avid fans crash the sites they link to (especially if it involves free online classes…), IFLS lets us know and either updates us as to when it works again or provides an alternate link.
  • Fact checking and debunking. The dissemination of science in particular lends itself to a lot of misinterpretation because not everyone understands the lingo, and IFLS does a great job of dispelling rumors that go around by explaining the science in civilian terms, like this one about snow in Atlanta not melting. 
  • Attractive headlines. This is good social media practice because users generally skim through their news feeds and only stop if they come across something that jumps out at them. IFLS uses zinger headlines for Twitter and more explanatory headlines for Facebook.
  • Science is Awesome, their kid-friendly page. It has the same content, but without the F-bomb in the title.

Of course, there’s a clear bias against anti-science, which may offend religious readers, plus the title itself, but overall their work is spot-on.

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