I Skyped in recently to the School of Medicine at the University of California Irvine to talk to the students about digital medicine. Trends, new media, the future, etc. It was a great time with some motivated students in a program initiated by Dr. Warren Wiechmann.
When it came time for questions, a student took the mike reported that he had reviewed my Twitter feed and uncovered what he felt may have been a suspicious exchange concerning penises.
As it turns out, he was right. But it wasn’t suspicious.
Some back story: I was recently at the AAP where I was rather entrenched in the Twitter back channel. As it turns out, so were a number of circumcision activists. I had one exchange with one of the activists that was above board and purely professional. But to a medical student sensitive to the issues of professionalism but unfamiliar with the context of my dialog, a conversation with @FamilyPenis was potentially suspect.
I love these moments.
The point I asked the students to take away was this: in social dialog, perception trumps reality. His quick peek at my feed could have been a discerning patient or potential employer who didn’t understand the context of the dialog.
And in this fast moving world of micro exchanges, the sender has a responsibility to try to consider how he may be perceived. The receiver has a responsibility to try to understand the context of the dialog before declaring the sender a bad actor. This is something that I work to keep in mind every day.
It was the misunderstanding, the question and the exchange in this case that generated the insight necessary to understand.
I never got the chance to thank the student. I’ll get him coffee the next time I’m in town.