Fears of Social Media: a Pre-Halloween Boogie Man Post | Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior

Fears of Social Media: a Pre-Halloween Boogie Man Post

skeleton thinkingI’m hoping this happy little post might help anyone who is on the fence about blogging or using other forms of internet 2.0 (meaning “interactive websites”) to communicate about healthcare. This article is part of an Advisory Board essay that I contributed to the Mayo Clinic Center for Social media to be used in a handbook for members of the Social Media Health Network. By the way, as you read this, I’m at their largest annual meeting in Minnesota right now. Yes, I got a new coat. And I can’t wait to tell you all everything!! Meanwhile, enjoy my pre-Halloween boogie man post! I’m printing it out for my doc who loves Google, but is still skittish about Social Media.

The Boogie Man Is Not on Social Media!

One reason many give for avoiding social media is fear. There are several risks or negative possibilities that people imagine will befall them. While the possibility of negative consequences is real, it’s usually rare. Still there is a perception that a Boogie Man exists. He’s not under the bed like he was when we were six, but somewhere in Social Media Land.

Like the one under a child’s bed, the Social Media Boogie Man is actually an image that emerges based on a collection of indistinct fears. Fears can often be dispelled with more information. While a six year old won’t get up, turn on the light, and look under the bed, there are many ways that we can do that. We can examine social media and prepare ourselves to use it to improve healthcare, driving away the Boogie Man.

One suggestion I’ve given healthcare professionals who are anxious is to observe a new platform or community for a brief time before fully participating. As you ease into it, people in online communities usually like giving advice and will gladly explain the lingo that’s being used or update you about scheduled events. Here are some other specific ways you can prepare to use social media successfully.

Please do try to…

  1. Be knowledgeable: Post useful, reliable information. Clever is cute, but you want to do more than attract attention; you want to build others’ confidence in your posts.
  2. Be good: Generous. Kind. Honest.
  3. Be yourself: Use social media the same way you’d use the telephone, an email, or a walk in the park.

Some surprising principles:

  1. Get off topic! People also love to talk about food, sports, or the weather. It’s okay to get off your healthcare topic so people can get to know you a little.
  2. Get mad! It’s all right to show some passion or emotion. It helps others know you’re being sincere.
  3. Mess up! Everyone makes mistakes anyway, so don’t think you have to wait until you can do this perfectly before you try.

Notice I did not say:

  1. Be Mr. or Ms. Wonderful! Just be part of the conversation.
  2. Be ever –present. You don’t have to reveal everything or be online all the time.
  3. Practice medicine online. Most do not have that expectation of you anyway.

I hope this eases some pressure or lessens some fears about using social media. The Boogie Man may be around somewhere, but I haven’t spotted him on Social Media lately. Mostly, I’ve met a lot of real people who are passionate about learning from others and improving healthcare.

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Kelly O'Neill

Kelly O'Neill (formerly Kelly Young) has worked about 12 years as an advocate helping patients to be better informed and have a greater voice in their healthcare. She is the author of the best-selling book Rheumatoid Arthritis Unmasked: 10 Dangers of Rheumatoid Disease. Kelly received national acknowledgement with the 2011 WebMD Health Hero award. She is the president of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. Through her writing and speaking, she builds a more accurate awareness of rheumatoid disease (RD) aka rheumatoid arthritis (RA) geared toward the public and medical community; creates ways to empower patients to advocate for improved diagnosis and treatment; and brings recognition and visibility to the RA patient journey. In addition to RA Warrior, she writes periodically for newsletters, magazines, and websites. There are over 60,000 connections of her highly interactive Facebook page. You can also connect with Kelly on Twitter or YouTube, or LinkedIn. She created the hashtag: #rheum. Kelly is a mother of five, longtime home-schooler, NASA enthusiast, and NFL fan. She has lived over fourteen years with unrelenting RD. See also https:/rawarrior.com/kelly-young-press/

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3 thoughts on “Fears of Social Media: a Pre-Halloween Boogie Man Post

  • October 19, 2011 at 8:31 am

    I have found that online support groups have been so very helpful to me. I haven’t been able to find local support groups, and probably wouldn’t be able to get to them on a regular basis anyway. After my diagnosis, and during my first big flare and set of infections that kept me at home for a week, the online support group was vital in helping me keep my sanity, since my rheumatologist wasn’t all that great at giving me pointers on how to deal with the day to day aspects of the disease. I think that’s also when I located RA Warrior, and started really understanding the disease.

    I would have to say though, use caution. It is the internet, and whatever you post is always out there. Also, people are not always who they say they are. I’ve seen people join the online support group and pose as someone with RA (why on earth would they pick such a disease?), for a variety of reasons: to do academic research, to tout a miracle cure . . . who knows why people would want to take advantage or hurt others. I would say just be mindful of what you say, don’t disclose information if you feel it is too personal or if you need to maintain anonymity, and if its sounds too good to be true, well, it probably is.

  • October 19, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    I never did understand why others thought it ws alright to tell another what should or shouldn’t go on an individuals blog. Or worse yet, tell you how you should or should not complain about a disease. Go figure? Did they ever stop to think it might help to vent the feeling, get on with your day & enjoy it? I say ‘screw em’ post what you feel, defend what you must and drive the rest to the dump.

    Good post.

  • October 20, 2011 at 8:30 am

    It does not make me feel any better to divulge my pain to anyone. Not everyone gets pleasure from sympathy. There is also the risk that if you do not agree you risk being accused of not having RA.


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