I sit before the computer screen this morning, wondering "What should I write?" Yet as I thought about this, I realized I should really write about why I'm thinking about this.
My journey in this space of social media has been a bumpy one, full of ups and downs, ins and outs, obsession and indifference, all rolled up into one. Yeah, this sums up health care social media now, at least for me.
I began writing here in November 2005, not really knowing what I was doing. I thought of this space as a marketing space, then an information-to-patient space, then a social space ("gee, so many interesting people here!) and even an "inside view of medicine" space. In reflection, I really didn't know what the hell this space should be.
But then came 2006 and 2007, my father became gravely ill, and social media was a wonderful outlet for me to reflect on all of the emotions, memories, and experiences that such an event invokes. I found I loved writing. To this day, I use this space as a diary of that time in my life, and even found my eyes blurring a bit this morning as I re-read my earlier Christmas reflection of the events that occurred that year. Blogs, I've found, are really a good space for remembering certain events, certain times.
Later, I'm not sure where I went with social media. I signed up for Twitter during the Twitter-craze and learned about "tweets" and "hashtags" and all that stuff. I was amazed at how "up-to-date" I could be with the latest rage, outrage, sound bite and scandal in medicine. Heck, it my cell phone would come alive! Medicine is so, *ping* , i-n-t-e-r-e-s-t-i-n-g again! *ping* *ping*
As if the latest cell phone vibration, chirp, and flash was really what mattered and dull ol' medical care was just, well, glacially stimulating by comparison. What's not to like, right? You could be a teacher, provocateur, and health care social media detective! You, dear doctor, could make a difference!
But in reflection, reality's been very different than that.
I realize now that I am just one voice, one small individual in a the overcrowded mess that is the internet. Everyone is trying so hard to be heard. Entire social media companies are developed just to make sure you pay attention to your cell phone - just look at SnapChat, where if you don't immediately attend to your cell phone, the image, message or 10-second video is gone, never to be seen again. Pay ATTENTION, people!
This is not to say people's voices aren't important. In fact, many in this space say incredibly powerful things here. But I am seeing something very interesting on social media now, especially as it pertains to doctors' participation in this space: propaganda.
There are very savvy, well-organized forces on social media now. Everyone knows this is where the battleground of public opinion rests. So forces are marshaled, teams assembled to make sure the party line is towed.
I ask you, dear doctor, who much time do you have? So it is with social media in health care.
But recently in my evolution in this space, I realize I have matured. I don't come into health care social media starry-eyed any longer. It has a purpose. You can meet some remarkably thoughtful and insightful individuals here. You can make some pretty amazing friends. And you can get lost.
But I realize there's a purpose, too. People can tell a single, quiet, story here - a small, transcendent one, too.
Nowhere was this more visible than in the recent quiet, painful reflections of a young boy suffering with leukemia and the wonderful stories he and his parents shared in their blogs. These are not people providing propaganda, these were people with a purpose. These were people who realized what mattered. These were people who were an inspiration to us all.
As I reflect on all of this at Christmas time, I find it's more important to spend these short, dwindling, yet cherished moments with real life, not one manufactured by the media companies.
Time is precious. Family is paramount. And social media is, well, social media.
This holiday season I hope all of us will take time to pull our heads from our cell phones and computer screens. There some amazing things going on around us, some amazing stories of hope and courage, and things we really need to appreciate. Most of those things aren't represented by bits and bytes on an iridescent screen, but rather what we take for granted every day, if we dare to look up.