tl;dr but commenting anyway

I’ll try to be brief. As an EMS blogger, I have always believed in the potential that social media possesses to change the dynamics of how we interact and grow professionally. The promise of the democratization of information and the timely access to news and research on-demand should only be making us better at our prehospital jobs. It is my experience, though, that we have simply become more efficient at sharing opinions than we are at actually communicating useful information. Worse yet, many individuals continue to abuse social media resulting in a stifling of their own professional development. Dave Statter terms this phenomenon as “Social Media Assisted Career Suicide Syndrome” (with plenty of examples.) But probably most disturbing is that we, as healthcare professionals, are hardly any more progressive in our knowledge or use of social media than the general public.

As author Stephen Covey has aptly pointed out, “the biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.” Like the responder who keys the microphone before thinking through the data that needs to be transmitted, many of us share a stream of thought from our beliefs in place of observing facts that may serve to lift the conversation. What becomes all too apparent in the rush to comment is the lack of depth in our training instead of the width of our understanding. It amazes me how many readers of an article will post comments based on the title of the piece without reading the text itself. The acronym “tl;dr” sums up the very problem at its heart because the person writing the comment is admitting the post was “too long; didn’t read.” 

To prove that this is not simply an opinion letter, I’ll submit a Pew Research Center study from earlier this year that demonstrates how differently various age groups receive their news. Hardly anyone younger than a Baby Boomer will dirty their fingers by thumbing through an actual newspaper any longer as social media finally edges out this traditional printed news in popularity. Even digital newspaper websites are declining in readership while television manages to retain its lead as the most popular medium (also propped up in large part by older generations.)  It is apparent that, independent of its source, more Americans prefer watching stories to actually reading the news. In fact, the most interesting insight from the survey is that the top two platforms for news among the college-aged crowd is Facebook and Snapchat.

My greatest fear has now become the “democratization of information” because of how much of the internet is fake. Not just “fake news,” but fake businesses, fake metrics, and even fake people. Artist Donny Miller, known as much for his typographic-based prints as his politically astute comments, noted that “We don’t communicate anymore. We just talk.” He is also the one who popularized the quote: “In the age of information, ignorance is a choice.” However, the internet has become much less than we thought it could be. And even using it becomes more of a challenge to mine information than simply find information.

As a sign of the decline of printed news in the prehospital arena, PennWell Corporation discontinued printing the Journal of EMS earlier this year and has opted for a digital approach to disseminating news. Whether JEMS, or its competitors at EMS1 and EMSWorld, can navigate the new reality of news is still to be seen. But it is clear that “readers” are demanding more interactive content that includes engaging visual infographics and flashy videos. One of the bright spots on the web to me as a professional has been the appearance of FOAM (the Free, Open Access Medical educational resources.) But this collective has many challenges as well. Some of the ethical issues that need to be analyzed and resolved are outlined in this article which also posted this handy summary graphic.

 

A few years ago, someone posted a question to a Reddit forum pondering, “If someone arrived from 50 years in the past, what thing would you have the hardest time explaining?” George Takei shared the reply of a very astute observer of society who answered, “I possess a device, in my pocket, that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and get in arguments with strangers.”

Although I am not fan of New Year’s resolutions, my personal plan for this coming year is to continue to educate myself (going beyond the bare minimums of ConEd classes) by actually reading more research and commenting my opinions on the news less often. We will have to see what happens to this blog as well as my Facebook and Twitter pages as a result. Happy New Year. 

1 Comment

  • Ray Bange says:

    Too true. Even though it is social media, I try to cite (however briefly) source data and background material that can be sometimes difficult to find. That may make the narrative less fluid and my observations appear clumsier, but I at least I feel more comfortable that the information posted has a basis in fact.

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