How Instagram Saved My PhD
Honestly, by the middle of 2019, I was exhausted. I was burnt out and tired, absolutely knackered. I felt so alone and isolated from the people around me, and I was starting to contemplate dropping out of my degree.
It's so easy to feel this way during a PhD, especially when things aren't going to plan, which was the case for me. I think it's an almost universal experience to feel lonely and lost, particularly when you're around half way through as I was.
And then I discovered the world that is "Science Instagram".
I had been on Twitter for a while at this point and absolutely loved the Academic Twitter threads. However, I didn't realise that a lot of my favourite Twitter scientists also had Instagram accounts.
Then one day, someone shared their Instagram post to their Twitter feed, and I clicked on it. I was amazed to find all these awe-inspiring scientists were on Instagram too, churning out original content all about science and academia, and most importantly, their experiences in their own PhDs. I hadn't been a big user of Instagram even personally up until this point, but I instantly knew this was what I was looking for.
Here was an online community of likeminded people all going through similar struggles to me. I was no longer alone.
I thought about starting up my own Instagram page dedicated to my PhD for a little while before I actually did it. I was so scared that no one would want to hear what I had to say, or that I wouldn't fit in in this science community, because I never really felt like a real scientist.
Then one day, I decided to take the plunge. I got another student in my group to take a photo of me in the lab that I could use for my first ever introductory post. I wrote it up, and waited a few days, to make sure I definitely wanted to put myself out there like that.
But I eventually built up the courage to post it, and found that even with just that first post, I had people reaching out to me, welcoming me to the community.
Over the last year, I have felt so embraced by everyone online, made to feel like my PhD experiences were normal, and encouraged to keep pushing on to get this degree despite the adversity I was and still am facing.
If I hadn't joined Instagram, and started Lily the Neuroscientist, I don't know whether I'd still be here in this PhD, or if the loneliness I was feeling and the difficulties I was having would've gotten the better of me.
I do know however that my PhD experience has been thoroughly enriched by having my Instagram account. It has given me cheerleaders, shouting me on every step of the way. It's given me a creative outlet, where I can play around with photography and coming up with ideas for posts that will be of value to people. It's given me inspiration from other scientists and PhD students, who are all doing amazing work. It's given me connections to people who have helped me in my own research. And it's given me a place to vent when things aren't going to plan, and a place to celebrate my wins.
I am forever grateful to everyone who has made me feel a part of the online science community on Instagram. And I'd like to encourage anyone who is thinking about joining this community to just go for it! You won't regret it!