The Power of Twitter – A Physician Blogger’s Perspective

 The Power of Twitter“When we try to pick out any­thing by itself, we find it hitched to every­thing else in the Uni­verse.” ~ John Muir

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When I first started my blog/website over 2 years ago, I remember that even the thought of social media sent waves of anxiety through me. Despite this and after taking a blogging course, I knew I had to have a social media presence, but admittedly, I still didn’t really understand social media. I had never been a personal Facebook (FB) or Instagram user like so many other people I knew, and therefore, I wasn’t sure where to begin navigating these seemingly murky waters. My angst was further fuelled by the fact that physicians at that time were extremely reluctant to engage on social media (many still are).

After trying almost every platform imaginable, I initially settled comfortably on Twitter and Pinterest to focus my energy. Still knowing that I had to post on FB to broaden my footprint, I directed all of my tweets to FB with intermittent FB specific posts. Today, I can honestly say that I am a true Twitter advocate and although have learned a lot, I fully realize that it has so much more to offer and that I have so much more to learn.

The Power of Twitter

I have written about Twitter before and my reasons to tweet, especially as a physician, continue to grow. Engagement and education are my top 2 reasons for believing in Twitter so strongly. Everyone tweets for different reasons, but the fundamental reason would still be engagement. This is why so many businesses, organizations, celebrities, and the general public have embraced Twitter. With over 302 million active users monthly, it is hard to ignore the power of Twitter and its ability to connect with anyone anywhere.

The attention social media has in relation to physician use has certainly shifted from negative to positive. Without question, physicians have to be careful with what they post and share, but this goes for anyone. Twitter isn’t a venue to air grievances, divulge privacy, be disrespectful or inappropriate. Instead, even the president of the Canadian Medical Association, Dr. Chris Simpson, is quoted in Maclean’s Magazine saying, “Twitter is a fantastic way to bring medical literacy to the general public”.

In fact, the positive light being shone on Twitter in healthcare continues to grow. The esteemed Mayo Clinic has developed the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media (MCCSM) where they strive “To be the authentic voice for patients and health care professionals, building collaborative relationships through the revolutionary power of social media.” This organization is an excellent resource for using social media in healthcare and really highlights that we are only on the cusp of what social media has to offer for both providers and consumers.

The last point I want to make illustrates the true power of Twitter. A few people I follow on Twitter often retweet the Twitter handle @AcademicsSay. I was always curious and amused by the tweets, especially since his twitter account name included a profanity. The following is an example tweet:

Shit Academics Say ‏‪@AcademicsSay Jun 29 – “I do my best proofreading after I hit send.”

Retweets 1,136 & Favorites 1,487

Subsequently, through Twitter, I came across the article @AcademicsSay: The story behind a social media experiment in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Nathan Hall, an associate professor and self-titled academic, started the account in 2013 and now it has grown to over 122,00o followers, gaining 250 to 300 new followers a day. Hall says, “…growing an anonymous parody account seemed like a not-boring way to poke fun at the profession that made my head hurt, maybe take myself a bit less seriously, and test an alternative hypothesis that I was not alone in being confounded by the curiosities and psychological challenges of an academic career.” He goes on to say that he realized the power of community building that Twitter offered as followers not only appreciated the jokes, but also the sharing of relevant information. As well, he was able to connect with influential people in his field, garnering more opportunities including jump-starting meaningful work through large-scale studies on self-regulation and well-being in academia. What started out as a fun past-time turned into fulfilling work through greater connectivity – thereby supporting the power of Twitter.

Are you currently on Twitter? If so, what benefits do you see in your life from tweeting?

Next week, I will discuss a few Twitter tips I have learned along the way.


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