Defining Social Standards for Doctors

February 9, 2012

There’s lots of discussion about how doctors should carry themselves online.  I think it’s simpler than we make it out to be.

Consider that we all live and work in communities.  We’re are shaped by those around us.  None of us do what we do alone.  And what I do and how I behave affects the way my community feels about me.  There are benefits and consequences to what I do.  I can blast fireworks in my yard 2 am, speed in my neighborhood, or get drunk and disorderly at the local Mexican restaurant.  I can volunteer as a scout leader or lead a food drive for a local woman’s shelter.  It’s my choice.  How I operate in public influences how people see me, how I’m received, and ultimately, how people work with me.

New media doesn’t change that.  We live and connect in online communities much like in real life.  And what we do in the virtual space has risks and benefits.  It’s interesting that before the democratization of media there was little discussion about how physicians should carry themselves in public.

Ultimately, defining one social standard for doctors is tricky.  Our patient and professional communities vary.  Standards vary.  We have to understand what works individually for the spaces we occupy and the company we keep – online and off.

We can argue about what doctors should and shouldn’t do online.  One thing’s for sure: In the context of our communities, good stuff build us up and poor judgment can close doors.

It’s simpler than we make it out to be.


Jason Boies February 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Well put, sir.

Though I’d add that with digital media, a doctor’s online equivalent of 2am Firework blasting has the potential to reach a much larger audience. :P

Thoughtful post though, as per usual.


Jason Boies

erick kinuthia February 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Cool post. There is a need for doctors to get engaged in social media. That way they will be able to increase the number of patients.

Erick Kinuthia
Team MDwebpro

Jeff Livingston , MD February 15, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Outstanding. I love this simple succinct post. The concept of regulating physician online behavior gives me “tired head.” I would love to see more docs discussion the value of engagement instead of focussing on reason to stay unengaged. That is a much healthier and productive discussion.

Jodi Sperber February 21, 2012 at 12:04 pm

+1 to this comment (and this post overall). Well put.

Matt February 16, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Seems simple. Our doctor is the person on Twitter that he is in real life. Makes jokes, talks politics and gives out some good information. Doctors who allow so-called SME’s to be their mouthpieces are missing the point. That’s not social media, it’s marketing.

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