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Tweetchat For Doctors?

Lately there’s been talk of a tweetchat for doctors. The issue has surfaced on Twitter over the past couple of weeks. The idea is out there –- the genie’s out of the bottle. There will be a tweetchat for physicians. But I’m not sure we need it. We may want to think about why we need a Twitter discussion group and what we’d like to get out of it.

I look at tweetchats like I look at medical meetings: I go to see old friends in one place. Most of what’s discussed was public long before the meeting. The most interesting stuff happens in the hallway. With that said I still go to medical meetings. But it’s usually to cultivate relationships. And tweetchats do accomplish that.

I like to participate in tweetchats to see who shows up. I like to look at how people behave, how they meet the challenge of open-ended questions in the limits of 140 characters. It’s really interesting to watch those who think they have the answers. I like to see who actually takes the process so seriously that they can’t crack a joke and have a little fun (this tells me the most).

But I have to ask: Is what happens during a tweetchat parallel broadcasting or conversation? I might suggest that the nature of the medium facilitates parallel broadcasting. You have to admit that it’s hard to make substantive commentary in 140 characters with 20 people simultaneously answering. The process devolves into a battle of one-liners where the effort is to keep up rather than absorb and learn. Sub-dialogs evolve that, while interesting, distract from the core topic.

Mitch Joel at Six Pixels of Separation wrote and interesting post last week suggesting that despite how we may think of ourselves and our digital world, real conversation may be going out of style. We’re devolving into a community of broadcasters. It’s worth a read and may have some corollary to this discussion about twitter meetings.

The thing is that while there may be measureable benefits from tweetchats we have to decide whether this represents the best use of time for physicians (or anyone for that matter) who’s social involvement is primarily limited by the clock. I struggle to maintain a balance of commitments to my family, my patients and the development of new ideas. One hour is one core idea that never gets shared on this blog. But everyone’s different. And for me the frustrations of Twitter as a discussion platform outweigh the benefits in many cases.

We shouldn’t confuse the importance of getting doctors together with the importance of getting doctors together for dialog on Twitter. Let’s not forget the dynamic conversation that can happen around blogs when everyone participates. This week we saw KevinMD take a step to organize dialog within LinkedIn.

Tweetchat for doctors will have its day. When it starts I’ll be there. But look for me in the hallway.

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

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