Social Feed Misperception


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.