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Twitter Transparency: 6 Rules

They say transparency is king — the more you share the better you look. But I’ve got rules. Here are a few things you won’t find in my Twitter stream:

Beer. I was recently speaking at a meeting out of town and caught up with some friends at the end of the day to visit and have a beer. I was in a different time zone and noted on Twitter the specific microbrew I was enjoying. The following week in my clinic a parent commented on my social activity. While I’m no stranger to transparency, the realization of my visibility was eye-opening. It reminded me that everyone’s watching and 140 characters doesn’t offer enough space to explain the why, or the time zone, of what I’m doing. So I’ve sworn to keep activities like beer consumption out of my twitter stream.

My kids. I try to keep my children out of my social footprint as much as possible. But as most of you who follow me know, they sneak their cute little selves in on occasion. It’s unfortunate because everybody loves hearing about my kids. This is at the request of my wife who’s a booger about privacy. I do mention the occasional date night with my daughter but, by and large, you won’t hear much. Kids are great jumping-off points for personal digression, but we have to be careful about using them to our own advantage.

Patients.  With the exception of broad examples or aggressively deidentified stories I try to keep patients out of my social dialog. They creep in occasionally because they’re such a huge part of my world but typically I catch myself. Their circumstances are their property and to use that without their expressed permission is a violation of their trust — even if HIPAA compliant. 

Work grievances. Sure I’ve got problems in my clinic just like every other doctor in the free world. And I love to vent on occasion but I try to keep it offline. My community’s got nothing to gain from it and no one likes a negative Nelly (or Nelson in my case).

Bad language. Don’t tweet anything you wouldn’t say in front of the Virgin Mary. Again, everyone’s listening. In a tweet this morning from Mike Cadogan, emergency physician in Perth and author at Life in the Fast Lane, he makes it a rule to avoid “sex, swearing and relationship issues.” Solid advice.

Consumer complaints. I always think it’s in poor taste when a prominent member of the social media community broadcasts an isolated negative consumer experience in order to make a company jump (“I’ve got followers. Do as I say or the brand gets it.”) In a way it represents journalistic irresponsibility. Your negative experience at the boarding gate isn’t my business and leveraging a large personal network to try to get quick results is a cheap tactic.

I’ll add more as they come to mind. What do you avoid in your social world?

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

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