In the next few editions of “Tech Talk,” I will discuss how social media affects health care. One of the areas we’ll explore is how physicians use social media, along with its various advantages and disadvantages. But, before I do that, I thought it would be most appropriate to assess how our patients are using different types of social media.
Explore this issue:October 2012
A Game Changer
“Social media” is ill-defined, and its definition is certainly evolving. In general, social media may include forums, blogs, podcasts and social bookmarking. According to a 2010 article published in Business Horizons by Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein, professors of marketing at business school ESCP Europe in Paris, there are six different types of social media:
- collaborative projects (e.g., Wikipedia);
- blogs and microblogs (e.g., Twitter);
- content communities (e.g., YouTube);
- social networking sites (e.g., Facebook);
- virtual game worlds (e.g., World of Warcraft); and
- virtual social worlds (e.g., Second Life).
Not surprisingly, men older than 65 are the least likely to participate in health care-related social media. Predictably, Generation X (34 to 45 year olds)—particularly the women in this group—are most likely to use the Internet to find information and to look for other people with similar health-related problems. Patients and families with rare disorders are much more likely to search online for others with similar problems. These patients frequently have a difficult time finding competent health care providers, and virtual social networks provide viable resources for information and identification of knowledgeable physicians.
Without a doubt, social media has been a game changer. A colleague of mine says that good news travels at the speed of sound, and bad news travels at the speed of light, i.e., via the Internet. It is true: We are all more likely to complain about problems or dissatisfactions than to give accolades for success.
Fear of Missing Out
I will readily admit that I’m not an expert in social media. I have a Facebook account but avoid it like the plague, and I don’t tweet. This issue is really simple for me: I have enough trouble keeping up with the 100 to 150 daily e-mails I receive, and I don’t want another electronic tether. However, if I had more time, I could very easily get sucked into these formats.
My paranoia is not without foundation. It turns out that social media can be quite addictive! In a study from the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda at the University of Maryland (available at withoutmedia.wordpress.com), college students were found to be “addicted” to multiple forms of social media. They have a “fear of missing out” (dubbed “FOMO”), and it seems to be related to the number of social sites they participate in and the way they access the information—in other words, the kind of device they have. Mobile devices are far and away the most popular method used to access social media sites. One of the conclusions of the study was that all of this media is having a profound effect on students and has distinctive social and probably moral implications regarding behavior.