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Outsourcing Relationships And Peddling Influence: Why Social Media Is Not Fun Anymore

When I first started blogging in 2006, the medical blogosphere consisted of a small group of physicians, nurses, and patient advocates. We knew each other well, and spent time each day visiting our favorite blogs and posting personal comments of encouragement and insight. We developed real friendships, and were optimistic about our brave new online writing frontier. We thought we could change the healthcare system for the better, we believed that our perspectives could influence policy, and we were sure that our writing could help our patients lead healthier lives.

I remember with great fondness the medical blogger conference that I attended in Las Vegas in 2009. It was the first time I’d met most of my blog friends in real life (IRL) – it was like seeing your favorite pen pals after years of correspondence. We talked all night, had marveled at how a love of writing had brought together a surgeon from South Africa, an ER nurse from California, and a Canadian rehab physician, among others. We figured that social media was the glue that held us all together. Since then, I am sad to say that for me, the glue has lost its stickiness due to dilution by third parties and a glut of poor quality content dividing attentions and exhausting our brains’ filter system.

Fast forward 7 years and most of my email correspondence is from strangers wanting to embed text links in my blog, people selling SEO services, or PR agencies inviting me to provide free coverage of their industry-sponsored conferences and webinars. I can’t think of a single friend who has left a comment on my blog in the past three months. Sure we see each other’s updates on Facebook and occasionally on Twitter, but I can’t remember the last real conversation we’ve had. Social Media has become irreversibly cluttered, and I’ve never felt more isolated or guarded about the future of medical writing.

My thoughts on this subject gelled when Twitter announced that LeBron James was following me (along with a select 80,000+ others). Obviously, LeBron has no idea who I am, and I’m almost certain he had nothing to do with his Twitter account following me. He, like many others, has outsourced his online relationship-making. It’s the ultimate irony – using social media to distance yourself from others, while maintaining an appearance of engagement. Sort of like sending a blow up doll of yourself to a party.

So what keeps some people going on these social media platforms? Perhaps it’s the allure of influence – the idea that many people are listening to you gives a sense of importance and meaning to your efforts. But take a cold hard look at your followers – do you know who most of them are? Or is there a large group of “hotchick123″ type Twitter accounts counted among them? I used to block followers who didn’t seem real or relevant, but it became so much of a chore that I couldn’t keep up. I was overwhelmed by the Huns.

One could argue that my social media fatigue  is my own fault – I didn’t screen my followers properly, I didn’t follow the “right” people, I haven’t curated my friendships with as much care as I ought to… But I know I’m not alone in my pessimism. A recent Pew Research poll suggests that people are leaving Facebook at a rapid rate. And as far as Twitter is concerned, it’s not for everyone.

I guess the bottom line for me is that social media isn’t as much fun as it used to be. I miss my blog friends, I miss the early days of being part of an online community. I don’t write as much as I used to because I don’t know my audience by name anymore. This “party” is full of strangers and I don’t like the familiarity that continues in the absence of true friendship.

Time to spend more of my energy on my patients, family, and friends IRL. And that’s a good lesson for a doctor to learn…

Hello 2012, Goodbye Better Health

Dear Better Health Friends & Contributors,

2012 will mark Better Health’s 4th year anniversary of group medical blogging. I began Better Health with the hope of organizing “voices of reason” in the health blogosphere so that our ideas would enjoy greater circulation and be more influential. We were the early adopters of social media – some of the first physicians, nurses, patient advocates, and scientists to join together to provide trustworthy content to our readers via blogs. We grew to represent over 130 bloggers and, over the years, were joined by such prestigious organizations as the American College of Physicians, Harvard Health Publications, Diario Médico, and the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention. I am proud of our excellent writing, and I know that we touched many lives through our blogging.

Many of our contributors have enjoyed such success in blogging that they are regular features of several publishing platforms. Others have gone on to careers in social media education and are now sought-after speakers across the U.S. and beyond. Today’s blog audiences often receive their health information via personalized “filters” on Facebook and Twitter, rather than specific websites. And so for these reasons, Better Health has achieved its purpose to promote medical bloggers. I will discontinue future publication of blog posts at the website as of today. Better Health, LLC will continue on as my personal consulting company.

I want to thank you all for contributing content to Better Health – I have personally enjoyed reading your work and I wish you success in your future writing endeavors. As I look forward to the next chapter of my life I hope to remain in touch with you all via email, Facebook (/drvaljones) or Twitter (@drval).

Please note that Grand Rounds will continue as usual, and that the website will remain in archive format indefinitely.

With all my best for 2012,


P.S. I will continue to promote medical blogging via Grand Rounds, and I will be hosting it at USA Today in the near future (date TBD). Please stay tuned for submission information. The Grand Rounds calendar will remain updated at the top of the Better Health home page indefinitely.

Birth Control Pill Recall And Disclaimers On Medical Blogs

Just yesterday, I put up a post about the recent birth control pill recall. This recall is a big deal – millions of women are potentially impacted, and the adverse effect – an unplanned pregnancy – is very significant.

I knew women taking these pills would be very worried, and wanted very much to do more than just spit out the press release from the FDA. I wanted to both reassure women and give them information that they could use other than just a link and a phone number. I also needed to figure out  how I would be handing the recall in my own practice. So I combined the two and posted what I’ll be telling my patients to do if they find that they are taking a recalled pill pack.

As soon as the post went up, I got worried.

What if the advice I was giving my patients was not what other docs might do for their patients? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Blog That Ate Manhattan*

Medical Blogging Then And Now

Shout out to @DanaMLewis for pointing out this post from Mashable entitled, “Why Curation Is Just As Important As Creation.” When people are starting out in social media creation, whether it be blogging, or podcasting, or whatever – the phrase always comes up – “Content Is King.” But is content really king anymore?

Now, I certainly wasn’t the first physician blogger, but I would probably consider myself “in those early days.” I mean, starting in 2006 was a few years ago. Back then, writing every single day was imperative. And, the way that you were judged were the amount of comments that you received. I mean, this was in the days before facebook and twitter, when the comment section of the blog was the only way to give feedback publically.

Back then, the way to make a name for yourself was to have the home base of the blog, and that’s how people knew you. Now, with so much content out there, people are overwhelmed and just cannot read everything that they want to read. I definitely can relate to this.

Now, many people are becoming “internet famous” by just sharing through their twitter or facebook stream – the items which they think are important. Maybe, sometimes, not even creating a bit of content on their own. Does this make them a second class citizen in the social media world – not anymore.

I agree with the assertion that being the “information maven”  – meaning evaluating social media information – meaning being a curator – instead of a social media creator – this will be very important in the days ahead. Am I wrong, let me know in the comments below - or on twitter, or on facebook, or other social media way…

*This blog post was originally published at Family Medicine Rocks Blog - Mike Sevilla, MD*

Global Health Communication: The Top 10 In 2010

00001From Blog 4 Global Health — an “interactive blog from the Global Health Council’s Policy, Research and Advocacy team” — here’s The Top 10 in 2010 Global Health Communication. An excerpt:

If global health communication was characterized by anything in 2010, it was the rise of Twitter and other social media among non-profit organizations as a way of bypassing increasingly irrelevant traditional media and taking their messages directly to their target groups. From the Global Health Council, we saw more and more of our members — large and small — embracing new media like blogging, micro-blogging and social networks like Facebook. At the year’s last meeting of our Global Health Communicators Working Group in November, I asked for a show of hands of those whose organizations were not using social media. No hands went up.

*This blog post was originally published at ScienceRoll*

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