They’re here: Creeping researchers who see the opportunity that’s social media. Publications, position papers, professional guidelines and policies on social media are appearing faster than you can say ‘ARA grant opportunity.’ A simple search will show that some of these authors have little more than a token feel of what its like to be a doctor in the social space. And they’ve got just enough of a footprint to fool the editors. “They’ve actually got a Twitter account. They must know what they’re talking about.”
The next time you see a policy or a guideline coming from a society or medical professional organization, deep search its authors. Look to see if they have the experience and social scars to guide you as a professional. If you’re a professional society or journal, be sure to do the same. Thoroughly vetting the social media experience of authors should be part of peer review when it comes to medical research and policy generation in social media. Otherwise expect those who have never experienced social media to position themselves as the new voice of authority.
Seizing the moment is fine. We need peer-reviewed data. But if you’re going to study social media, live in the space.
Fail and confront the dilemmas. Worry about getting sued. Face the hairy eyeball from your compliance officer and keep going. Fight with your spouse over your passion and obligation to communicate as a doctor. Fight with your spouse again – and keep going. Block a patient. Tell a 19-year-old ex-patient college freshmen why you can’t be her Facebook friend. Initiate and create a social media policy for a major medical organization. Create a social media policy for a hospital. Face the issue of an emergent medical situation dropped on your lap via twitter. Take a difficult position. Have a mother friend you on Facebook for the sole purpose of getting an appointment. Start a blog. Maintain a blog for more than 4 months. Maintain a blog for more than 4 years. Get up at 4:30 am to share an idea with the world. Stay up really late to share an idea with the world then the next morning decide that it’s not the right idea. Worry about getting fired. Get burnt out with social media. Go dark, then come back. Shutter a blog. Deal with the humiliation of a troll. Get falsely accused of using Twitter to sell products for Pharma. Put your Twitter name and blog address above everything else on your business card. Confront some guy in India who’s scraping your content. Post something, worry all night about it, then take it down. Post something, worry all night about it, then change just a word. Overstep a HIPAA boundary then learn from it. Confront the temptation of taking money for posts. Convince your hospital for 3 years to start a blog. See your hospital’s blog become a success. Struggle with your position as part of the new media. Anger your academic peers then work it out. Get laughed at by your peers then help them when they want to get started. Jump on a shiny new social platform, watch it rise, then watch it fail. Think obsessively about where this is all headed. Recognize that social media doesn’t exist solely as an opportunity for your individual academic advancement.
This is how you’ll understand the issues facing doctors. This is how you will understand the questions that need to be answered. As a researcher it will make you brilliant.
One other thing. Feel free to come over to 33 charts and learn from my hard-earned concepts. But if you want to take them and wave them around in your journal of choice, do us both a favor and tell the readers you heard it here.
Just for fun: What do you think gives a health professional street cred when it comes to social media?