Thursday, April 15, 2010

Social Networking and Medicine: or, How Not to Be an Idiot

Today we had a lecture about social networking websites and the use of them by medical professionals.

It amazes me how little common sense some people have about these sites. There's always a lot of discussion about privacy settings, and how to make sure your site represents you in a positive, professional light. I could have explained how to do that in thirty seconds:

"Behave with integrity and don't do things you aren't proud of."

One student suggested that it was a problem that you couldn't take down photographs of yourself that other people post. I tend to agree with him that the site should allow that, but the thing that he seemed not to realize was that if you don't do stupid things in the first place, no one will have embarrassing pictures to post.

It seems like this is being presented to our generation as a huge challenge that we must overcome, to avoid being negatively portrayed online due to loss of the privacy that previous generations have enjoyed. It isn't about privacy - it's not about how "not to get caught" doing inappropriate things. It's about the fact that we cannot expect to reliably hide indiscretions, unprofessional or illegal behavior anymore. Everything we do might be photographed or videotaped by someone walking by with an iPhone, posted on the internet within seconds, and forever out of our control. The thing that people don't seem to realize is that what shows up on the internet about you is absolutely within your control - because you control what you say and what you do.

I don't want a doctor who has the "sense" to not post on the internet that he or she thinks I'm stupid and disgusting and slovenly. I want a doctor who doesn't think it in the first place. I don't want to trust someone with my health who drinks irresponsibly, or thinks its funny to laugh about people because of their weight, or race, or sexual orientation - regardless of whether I know about it or not.

The internet hasn't made people do these things, or think this way - it's just made it much more difficult to lie about it successfully. Frankly, I think that's a good thing.


Julie said...

I agree. This is similar to the recent debate about whether to have security cameras downtown. Lots of arguments about invasion of privacy, and my thought was 'you're out in public - what will you be doing that you're afraid of having photographed?' (The vote was in favor of the cameras)

Maria said...

I am sort of amazed at the strange things that I see on my own family's facebook pages. I mean...Jaysus.