The medical student vs. the interwebz (or, Facebook: spawn of Satan)

I’ve been thinking about writing about this for a while.  Thanks to Caitlin ( for giving me the gusto to get going.

Medical students seem to walk a fine line when it comes to social media.  And blogging is no exception.  So here’s hoping whatever opinions I hold don’t come back to bite me in the ass come CaRMS time.

Putting it bluntly, classmates and faculty are currently playing around with the idea of restricting how we use social media like Twitter or Facebook.  Anybody who says different is sugar-coating it, toots.  I suppose the original idea sprung from the fact that social media sites are so painfully public.  Let’s face it – employers are using it, why not patients?  Therefore, anything we say or post on those sites should be doled out sparingly as if we were speaking to them.


Sorry, is my sarcasm showing?

For a girl who writes off-and-on in a very public blog, that’s a rather terrifying idea.  In fact, I’d hoped to one day to turn this into something of a Q&A site for patients to get answers to common problems I get asked.  Or maybe even to let them know when I plan to be on holidays or be otherwise unavailable.  A site to be both candid and practical.

I’m just afraid, given their way, I would have to completely shut this thing down.  Because, heaven forbid, should an overly sensitive reader get a hold of it…

I’m not sure what censoring what I write both here and on Facebook (especially Facebook) would accomplish.  Obviously, there’s fancy law stuff prohibiting us from breaching patient confidentiality.  Given.  But what about everything else?  What about things like cussing or posting drunk pictures?  What about the stupid medical jokes we make?  The racist-in-a-funny-way comments?  The eye-rolling at preceptors and lecturers?

For me, it’s so obvious.  I don’t plan on “friending” any of my patients or superiors… so who am I censoring myself for?  How I interact with my friends is, really and truly, none of their damn business.  Rather harsh, completely true.  I use Facebook entirely in a personal setting and never as a professional.  Professionalism shouldn’t even be an issue here.  I suppose if you stretched your brain, you could think of a scenario where a Facebook friend read something, was offended, and complained to someone else.  But trying to control access for every single person in order to prevent that one from reading it… well, seems a bit paranoid and impractical to me.

Facebook is one of the safe zones where I can be myself, crack jokes, and be silly with my friends.  It’ll be especially important during clerkship when I won’t see them nearly as often.  How else will we whine and complain and bemoan every night on call we suffer through?  Being a professional is only part of who I am, and the other part loves Facebook, dammit.

Blogging is different, for obvious reasons.  It’s a rather public form of writing and, as such, the patients that are (presumably) entrusting me to be a partner in their care might read it.  Like I said earlier, I hope someday they do.  And the last thing I want to do is erode that patient-physician trust.  So crucial.

And don’t get me wrong – I don’t think medical students should be unprofessional on these sites.  (As a matter of fact, I don’t think it’s a good idea for anybody to post drunk pictures of themselves for fear of interwebz-wide embarrassment.)  That’s not what I’m suggesting.  Rather, I don’t want interaction with friends to be curtailed specifically because I’m a medical student.  There seems to be a major double standard in our behaviour versus students in other faculties, and it rubs me the wrong way.  But that’s a rant for another post.

I don’t mind being told that I shouldn’t do this or that, since there’s at least the potential for good advice.  But it really gets my hackles up when I’m told that I can’t.

 – Atalanta


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