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Iron Stories

#ProductiveProcrastination on Twitter, Anyone?

Anand Ruban Agarvas

One fine Sunday drinking coffee with a few friends (brilliant scientists), I casually complained how I often waste time doom-scrolling on Twitter, the social media. What struck me was their answers: one of them wasn’t aware of Twitter and the other person replied they preferred to not use Twitter because they felt it was not productive and may end up procrastinating (like me). I should have taken it as an insult, but a curious question popped in my head: can one procrastinate productively on Twitter?

I have found Twitter to be an incredibly powerful platform to connect with people. I have been often surprised how active scientists are on Twitter: many of them share their preprints, papers and conduct active discussions. I have seen scientists live-tweet presentations from conferences within minutes of sharing their papers, I have seen insightful exchanges happening between great minds.

More and more scientists use Twitter to advertise for jobs and I still believe Twitter can be an effective tool for academia. Anyway, circling back to my original question: can one procrastinate productively on Twitter? Since I did not know the answer, I did what I would do if it was a scientific question: I did some search and then more search and couple of hours later, I found a working protocol which I then adapted and created: @IronBiologyBot.

@IronBiologyBot picks papers published in the field of iron biology from PubMed and will tweet the title and link to the article on Twitter.

Here is the working protocol (phone or browser) if you would like to try it too:

  1. Create a Twitter account. If you already have one, login to the account and go to Step 2
  2. Use the search bar on Twitter and look for @IronBiologyBot.
  3. Click ‘follow’ button on the profile page and then click ‘bell’ icon on the same page:
screenshot 1. screenshot 2.

You will soon be notified whenever there are new papers. I now find it quite useful to quickly screen the title if the paper interests me and if it does, I click to read further. If the paper is interesting, I like it and choose to read it for later. But here’s what is more interesting: I now check twitter less often and use it for a shorter duration than before. And the time that I use Twitter, I am just quickly looking at tweets from @IronBiologyBot, so, I think I procrastinate less. I am even a bit glad I’m better keeping up with literature. You can also use the hashtag #ironbiology whenever you share your research on Twitter and interact with people working in the same field.

Anand Ruban Agarvas
PhD Student (Muckenthaler lab),
Department of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Immunology,
University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany

posted: September 9, 2021