By Anicca Harriot. with a foreword from #VanguardSTEM
Our #WCWinSTEM is Anicca Harriot. You may recognize our lovely #WCWinSTEM as the young lady who went viral when she tweeted the photos and calculations of the angle of her dab. Anicca is a senior student at Regent University where she is majoring in Biophysical Sciences and minoring in Business. She hopes to begin a PhD in Biochemistry next fall. Her long term dream is to be an astronaut. Why, you might ask?
“The idea of marrying the concept of the smallest scale of human existence with an understanding of the vastness of our universe is a concept that excites me and drives my curiosity like nothing else can.” ~ Anicca Harriot.
Currently, Anicca maintains a prominent social media presence. At times, she volunteers as a social media correspondent for NASA as well as the Smithsonian’s past exhibit for the Genome Zone. Social media allows her to share her passions and to connect with other like-minded individuals. Through social media she plans to continue to spark public interest in STEM and to occasionally mentor young students. As you will read on in this piece, her tweet has already caught the attention of so many individuals. Many good things have come from this tweet; however, Anicca has also experienced cyber bullying upon going viral. Thankfully, she has not let the horrible comments and Internet trolls stop her from sharing her passion and love of #STEM. Here, you will have a chance to get to know more about Anicca and her experience with going viral, in addition to hearing some of her thoughts about representation in STEM.
We appreciate you Anicca and all that you have already done for the world of #STEM. Keep dabbing on ’em, girl!
~ Chrystelle Vilfranc, #VanguardSTEM #WCWinSTEM Coordinator
For the majority of my life, my free time has been dedicated to pursuing my passions in STEM. As a senior at Regent University studying Biophysical Sciences and minoring in Business, free time is not something I come by often; even in that time, science and math are never far from my mind. I have always dreamed that my endeavors in science would lead me to a place where I could be a topic of conversation in classrooms, but I never imagined that the catalyst would be a viral tweet about trigonometry.
One question I’ve found myself answering time and again is what made me decide to calculate the angle of my dab.
The truth is, STEM is such an integral part of who I am as a person, it did not seem significant to me to ask what the angle was or to calculate the answer.
My friends, who were waiting nearby when I pulled out my notepad and calculator, weren’t particularly surprised either. I surely did not expect for a funny tweet from a Friday morning break between classes to cause me to gain 27,000 retweets, 1,100 new followers and notoriety in math classes nationwide.
I am by no means new to the concept of going viral. In January 2016, I tweeted a picture of my brother casting what seemed to be a longing gaze at a shelf of ketchup with the caption, “I just want someone who looks at me the way my brother looks at ketchup.” That tweet has garnered almost 15 million impressions and was the catalyst for my summer internship as a social media coordinator for NASA Langley’s Autonomy Incubator.
I cannot deny that going viral is exciting; it has opened doors and allowed me to make connections that I had previously only dreamed of. Calculating the angle of my dab landed me a spot as a panelist on the topic of Producing STEM Stars at the Congressional Black Caucus—a talk sponsored by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.
While I appreciate that social media has provided me with unprecedented opportunities to form meaningful connections, going viral has also opened my eyes to the fierce negativity that online anonymity creates. Strangers have asked me why a black girl doing basic middle school math deserves so much attention, why I wasted my time on something so dumb; some have even suggested I consider suicide.
After a while, it can be difficult to remain unaffected by online hate; I want to defend myself, to fight back, but at the end of the day, I know that these people have no real interest in what I have to say. I remind myself of that because these people do not know me personally, I cannot take their insults personally and above all else, I do not have to prove myself to anyone. These are the lessons I have learned online and as a woman of color in STEM.
Social media is an amazing entity in that it allows me to shape my narrative and express myself in an unparalleled manner. Young people are often advised to be careful of what they post; we are told that social media is dangerous—that future employers may look to our online history as a means of turning us away. I see social media as a tool I can use not only to portray myself in a positive light, but to connect with other young people with STEM interests. Online forums can help to show students that a scientist can be anyone with passion and work ethic. To me, social media can be a powerful asset for people like myself to mentor to students as well because, as young scientists, we often lack visibility to those who find it easiest to relate to us.
I was recently invited to speak to students in a STEM club at a local middle school because their math teacher came across my viral tweet and upon accepting the invitation, I realized that I had never personally had a black female mentor in STEM. Being able to reach out to students to foster and support their interests in STEM, to show them that STEM is everywhere, and that anyone can be involved is the most rewarding opportunities that has been offered to me as a result of my viral tweet.
Copyright © 2016 by Jedidah Isler
All rights reserved. The content above or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of #VanguardSTEM except for the use of brief quotations, with attribution, and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to #VanguardSTEM, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at firstname.lastname@example.org