Trying to be more visible: the social media CV
In my short two decades of existence, I have done many things I am not too proud of, but joining Twitter was the worst. Putting up my picture was strike two and adding a bio made me stop counting.
But it was necessary, the need of the hour. After months of procrastination, I finally mustered up the courage to make myself visible to the medical community. Physicians, no matter how busy, are all on Twitter. Faculty around me were there too. Loads of students also had Twitter accounts. And so, I decided to make a profile, add my affiliation, and do what so many students have started doing: showcase my CV.
Students have been using platforms like these to connect with mentors, give the world personal updates, and attract more mentorship. They post their latest publications, upload poster presentations, and talk about articles they have read in well-phrased, witty 280-characters. That is what social media is about: connection and visibility. Students portray themselves as the budding professionals they are and try to fit into the tweeting doctors' community.
While students have been using all sorts of tricks to attract professional attention since the start of time, Twitter or no Twitter- using social media as a 'social-CV' has multiple drawbacks. It increases stress because it increases professional visibility, making one more thing in our lives about our careers. Following other students on Twitter doesn't always mean celebrating their successes. In fact, watching others grow when one is not doing too well can make us feel intimidated.
Social media becomes less 'fun' and more 'work'. It is less a communication modality between friends and more a serious display of one's achievements. While the concept of merging social media with students' career journeys is well-established, the concept of merging social life with students' careers is not. Not many mentors are used to seeing students as themselves yet, and not many students want to share their personalities either.
For students like myself, it is also a question of unwanted privacy changes. I have been quite careful with social media- even my (closest) friends can't post something on my Facebook wall without (critical) review first. The bits of myself that I allow 'everyone' to see are special to me in a historical sense. After betraying myself on Twitter, I wonder, how do I dramatically change other accounts to look more professional, less cat-who-ran-away-profile-picture-since-5-years? Should I make new accounts? What if someone from my old life (dad) embarrasses me?
Another concern for someone who doesn't naturally feel like sharing their accomplishments is modesty. I have tried to phrase my tweets to show this internal revolt but it has resulted in cringy attention-seeking bloopers. The modest student goes through immense pain when writing a brag sheet. And now they have to write one online.
Many of my friends also fight internal battles when putting their work up there. This is the worst aspect of social-CVs. It is a peer-pressure driven phenomenon that some students follow reluctantly. They cannot rant (who is asking you to do it?), they cannot debate (is that why you have been posting?), and they cannot dissuade (that's not why I post!). Instead, they must make social media their one-stop-CV-shop, and soon, because their professional growth is at stake.
There is no denying the upside of social-CVs, such as mentorship from around the world. Who would have thought we could connect with mentors we haven't even met? Along with showcasing work, social-CVs highlights who you are, your passion, and your dreams. But too often it becomes a scramble for visibility- and a more stressful one at that- like a constant job interview.
There may be no plausible regulation to solve this problem; many might not even consider it such. Perhaps the best shot at changing this culture is to encourage medical students to see themselves as complete beings so that social media continues to be personal, and not broadcast their CVs overtly so that each new ping isn't another student's triumph over yours.
Many current stress-relief methods function on principles of taking time off, talking to friends, and finding hobbies, and some of this must be done online, given long-distance loved ones (and not to mention the pandemic). Thus, no matter how much momentum the 'whole person' approach gains in education, where students are seen as human beings, expecting students to behave openly online when it is building their CV is asking for too much.
Yet again, the unblinking eye of social media has added ease-cum-complexities to our lives. Surely there are advantages of social-CVs. But they cannot be equated to the apple on the teacher's desk of the past. Because here, students are never going back home from school. They are always there, getting a personal update for each new apple placed, always thinking, always visible.
DISCLAIMER: Copyright belongs to the author. This blog cannot be held responsible for events bearing overt resemblance to any actual occurrences. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of CCIT or AKU.
Maria Khan is a third-year medical student in Pakistan and can't handle Twitter.
Twitter handle: @Maria__khan__
Conflicts of interest: none