Part of my process for battling burnout has been rethinking the ways in which I use social media. One of my up-until-recently neglected channels was Instagram. I just didn't know what to do with it as a science communicator, web comic, and illustrator. It's not a great place to share my comics because they're rarely square-shaped, and if I shrink them to fit, they're often no longer readable. I started using it for sharing pictures of my merchandise and as of last year, a few dog pictures. Apart from that I'd post any fun nature pictures I could take, such as a picture of a lizard I found in my backyard. But it didn't feel like the best use of this medium.


I made a new friend in the garden today.

A photo posted by Katie McKissick (@katie_the_beatrice) on

Now, I think I actually have some clarity and ideas for what on Earth to do with this account.

  1. No more dog pictures. This I already started doing since I created an Instagram account specifically for such pictures. As adorable as my dog is (since she's the best dog in the entire world and whatnot), she's not really part of my Beatrice the Biologist mission. So unless there is something relevant, she'll hang out on her own account. (And I'll just whine about how Instagram doesn’t allow you to easily switch between accounts.) This is also true of children, entirely personal musings, and anything else that you don't want the whole world to see.

    Willow models my new embroidered brain beanie! Just added to my shop:

    A photo posted by Katie McKissick (@katie_the_beatrice) on

  2. More selfies, but not just any selfies--relevant selfies. I'm not a big selfie taker. But I definitely enjoy seeing the faces of scientists and science communicators I follow, so I should do the same. But I won't be doing selfies at random, but rather selfies relevant to science communication. By that I mean selfies at science museums and events, or ones where I am perhaps wearing a science-themed shirt or piece of jewelry.

    A #latergram from @NHMLA when I took a selfie with a crystal ball in the hall of gems. Because of reasons.

    A photo posted by Katie McKissick (@katie_the_beatrice) on

    I also plan to use selfies to promote vaccines. I'll definitely take a selfie when I get my flu shot this year, and I'll be on the lookout for other opportunities around health and health promotion. Or maybe I'll just document the next time only one of my eyes is dilated.

    "This won't dilate your eye," said the doctor. ��

    A photo posted by Katie McKissick (@katie_the_beatrice) on

    And that leads to number three:
  3. Explain parts of doctor visits. I have posted X-rays and a video of my retina to Instagram in the past, but I didn't take the opportunity to say anything about these images, and that was a missed opportunity. In the future when I have medical imagery (or something similar) to share, I'll take advantage of the teachable moment to explain what X-rays are, what the retina is, or what a throat culture is.

    Went to the dentist today! The X-ray tech liked my teeth.

    A photo posted by Katie McKissick (@katie_the_beatrice) on





    Would you like to see my retina? (My optometrist was kind enough to humor me and take a video with my iPhone.)

    A video posted by Katie McKissick (@katie_the_beatrice) on

  4. Science Videos! I've been wanting to make fun science videos, but it's so hard to find the time to record, edit, annotate… eh, see I'm exhausted already. But why go to all that hassle? If I have an idea for a quick video, I can just make an Instagram video! Why didn’t I think of this sooner?!
  5. In the moment science musings. I can't tell you how many times I have a silly partial idea for a comic that I jot down and don't use. You know where those  belong? Instagram. It's the perfect place for sketches and little tidbits of ideas. I should share these with people.

Be sure to also read Glendon's 5 Instagram Tips for Science Artists!