The Daily Dose • Saturday, May 18

Social Media: To Use or Not to Use?

By Douglas A. Colquhoun, MB ChB, from the IARS, AUA and SOCCA 2019 Annual Meetings*

In the afternoon educational session of the SOCCA 2019 Annual Meeting, Doctoring and Social Media, Drs. Sheela Pai Cole, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology, Stanford University, Vivek Moitra, Professor of Anesthesia, Columbia University and Veena Satyapriya, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology & Critical Care, Ohio State University, engaged in a moderated pro-con debate on the benefits of the use of Twitter by the Critical Care community.

In the opening presentation entitled, “Of Tweets, Retweets, Hashtags, Likes and Dislikes: A Guide to the Terminology and Etiquette,” Dr. Pai Cole (@sheelapaicole) outlined the explosive growth of social media, the classic audience and reasons for each of established social media platforms, before narrowing her focus on Twitter and its use by the medical community. She went on to lay down three “ground rules” that a medical professional considering the use of Twitter may wish to follow. These principles focused around separation of personal and professional accounts, protections of privacy and engagement with materials from other Twitter users and sources.

After these introductory statements, Dr. Vivek Moitra (@vmoitra) took the podium to passionately argue for the relevance of Twitter within the field of critical care. In his talk entitled, “I Tweet Critical Care: I Cannot Do without It,” he outlined reasons why 65% of U.S. physicians use social media for professional purposes. Dr. Moitra discussed the origins of the #FOAMed (Free Open Access Medical Education) movement, tracing it back to a 2012 Emergency Medicine conference. Leveraging the conversational style of Twitter communications, he argued that the breadth and speed of dissemination of information that is possible via Twitter is necessary given increasing pace of the expansion of medical knowledge.

In particular, he argued that Twitter is useful for offering new avenues for dissemination of research results, for the delivery of medical education via the phenomena of the Tweetorial and for engaging the medical community and general public to support research endeavors. For those convinced that they should begin their Twitter journey, Dr. Moitra offered the three next steps: creation of an account, finding other Twitter users to follow and finding hashtags to follow.

Presenting the downside of this phenomena, Dr. Satyapriya (@MdVeena) argued that Twitter use is leading to physician burnout via increasing pressure to have another portal through which to demand interaction with public and professional communities. In her presentation entitled, “I Think It’s a Distraction: Several Reasons to Thrive without It,” she argued that this information overload contributes to physician moral injury. She explained how a poorly or hastily worded tweet could find attention rapidly as it is multiplied by likes and retweets. Dr. Satyapriya continued by arguing that Twitter creates a virtual echo chamber without real debate of truly contrary opinion. False information or tweets with malicious intent may be more likely to become more widely disseminated than true information and practices of following only targeted hashtags exposes one to algorithmically selected tweets. This leads to limitations on the quality of the debate. Dr. Satyapriya closed her presentation with a challenge to the audience to ask what else they could do with an extra 30 minutes of the day which might otherwise be spent on Twitter.

In a lively Q&A session the audience brought up issues around the development of career and professional reputation, curation of social media information and strategies for responding to the information overload which aggregated Twitter feeds may contribute to.

*Coverage from the SOCCA Education Session III: Doctoring and Social Media during the SOCCA 2019 Annual Meeting