We spend a good portion of our day in front of screens—televisions, computers, tablets, phones and more. Social media (#SoMe) use has been on the rise, and its marriage to medicine seems inevitable.
Merriam-Webster, aka America’s most trusted online dictionary, defines social media as forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content. I’ve seen this definition come to life in real time, stimulating collaborations for discussion, advocacy and learning while promoting camaraderie among doctors on social media (#SoMeDocs).
Social media use for professional purposes by students and doctors has risen dramatically. A growing number of patients has also found utility in social media as a tool for gathering information, connecting with others and as a platform to address issues. With the convenience of accessibility to the Twittersphere, comes immense responsibility.
Welcome to Twitter
I discovered the emergence of rheumatology on Twitter when I attended the 2018 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting in Chicago. Following other rheumatologists and the official meeting hashtag, #ACR18, on Twitter, filled my feed with headlines on topics of my interest. While I attended sessions, I tweeted take-home points for those who could not attend or those who were busy attending other sessions. The Annual Meeting even hosted a Tweet Up, an informal event that provided an opportunity for members who engage on Twitter to meet face to face—or in real life (IRL).
Through my first year in fellowship, I have come to greatly appreciate social media as an integral resource in my training. The best part is that you can spend as much time perusing as your schedule permits.
Where to Start
I recommend you start by following the official ACR account on Twitter (@ACRheum). It helps you stay up to date on the latest news, guidelines and information. For example, when the first psoriatic arthritis guidelines came out through the ACR, I was reminded to review them while scrolling through my feed. @ACRSimpleTasks is another great account to follow to raise awareness about rheumatic diseases.
The platform also makes it easy for me to retweet posts to share with my followers. Digital versions of the articles in The Rheumatologist are posted via links on the account as well.
Paul Sufka, MD (@psufka), a social media ninja and rheumatologist in Minnesota, coordinates a Rheumatology Journal Club once a month on Twitter (@RheumJC). This is a great place to discuss papers with others in the field. The sessions are sometimes visited by authors of the papers being discussed, providing an extremely useful tool (literally) at our fingertips. At one session, we discussed our favorite abstracts from #ACR18.
The New England Journal of Medicine (@NEJM), JAMA (@JAMA_current), The Lancet (@TheLancet) and Nature (@Nature) represent the many journals on Twitter that make staying up to date with research easy and fun.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (@CDCgov), the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (@US_FDA) and other government departments provide followers with the latest announcements and infographics. Twitter was actually the first place that informed me of the multistate E. coli O157:H7 outbreak underway caused by romaine lettuce consumption. I willingly excluded salads from my diet for a few weeks following that announcement.
Participating in scheduled chats hosted on Twitter has been one of the most enriching parts of becoming a citizen of the Twitterverse. I usually participate in the Sunday evening #WomenInMedicine chat (@WomenInMedChat). This chat connects me with women in medicine from all over the world, offering a forum to discuss issues we face in medicine and medical education. The chats are well organized and cover an array of topics, including relationships and #QuestionsIveBeenAskedAsAWoman at the workplace. I’ve found the conversations invigorating and thought provoking. From the chat, I have discovered the Twitter accounts of many other inspiring women who are blazing their own trails. At the end of the chat sessions, I usually feel refreshed and ready to take on the workweek with renewed motivation. Not only is it a good learning opportunity, but it’s also a tremendous way to avoid burnout.