I had lunch with 3 pediatric surgeons recently. One was a Twitter user, the others were not. We got to talking about the ins and outs of Twitter and one of the non-users asked, ‘Why do you want more followers?’ There was an awkward silence.
I had a related experience a few months back with a pathologist new to LinkedIn. He knew about my interest in public networks and felt compelled to boast about his growing ‘connection’ count. I didn’t share that this fixation with numbers was a little like going to a mixer and stockpiling business cards. The cards themselves are irrelevant, it’s the connection that counts.
We have a dangerous preoccupation with the tools and numbers of social media. The process happens at the expense of the purpose. At our core, many doctors are quants and we like to watch things that can be measured, especially when there’s the suggestion that we have some kind of value.
I encourage my colleagues to experiment with these tools to see how they work. The desire to be loved and accepted are inescapable human traits amplified by this new capacity for connection. But ultimately you have to think about what you will do with your public presence and why you’re here.
Sherry Turkle had this to say in Alone Together.
Winston Churchill said, “We shape our buildings and then they shape us.” We make our technologies, and they, in turn, shape us. So, of every technology we must ask, Does it serve our human purposes?—a question that causes us to reconsider what these purposes are. Technologies, in every generation, present opportunities to reflect on our values and direction.
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