Sunday, November 1, 2009

Social Media and the balance between work, personal and social lives!

I have been struggling with this question, more so recently since I started spending more time on FB, Twitter, Second Life etc.
I find these Social Media sites to be terrific in several ways
  1. Learn a lot from Tweets by other people with similar interests whom I follow on Twitter
  2. Helps me keep up with updates in medicine, technology, education and combinations of these
  3. Stay current with friends and family efficiently and effectively - Friended Dad on FB so he can see my daughters soccer videos and dance performances.
  4. Learn about interests and hobbies of "friends" on FB - developed even more respect for them and got something new to talk about when we meet next
  5. Twitter helps me find and exchange ideas with an amazing group of people on the planet - something that I cherish more and more
  6. Learn techniques of communication - mutual respect, prompt feedback, sharing with attribution that I can bring back to live meetings
The question that keeps niggling in the back of the mind is "Is the time I spend on Social Media take me away for 'real work'?" Recognition in academic medicine is tied to research and publication in peer reviewed literature. I don't see medical schools promoting a faculty to full professor for the number of tweets, followers, friends in Twitter and FB anytime soon.

But why not?
One of the key parameters used in promotion is "recognition by your peers". So if your peers who work at other academic medical centers follow you on Twitter, it should help right?
When you post a blog and get comments from several followers, is this not a transparent peer review process?
If you do meta-analyses and you poll the twitterverse for unpublished studies, your systematic review will have less of the publication bias right?

As far as other "work" goes, I am on the social media committee for my institution and that blurs the distinction even more. Experience with social media has helped me suggest/develop solutions like
  1. Using Yammer and biomedexperts within the institution to help people find mentors and coaches - creating groups for each major competency or area of interest
  2. Creating a FB page for a non-profit physician organization to improve communication between members
  3. Using Google groups for our medical students to share information and resources
  4. Using Zotero for our medical students to collect evidence from their online assessment system and cite it when writing their ePortfolios
  5. Creating a Chronic Disease curriculum with students and selected patients communicating in private groups in FB/Ning
  6. Using Second Life to help students practice and learn history taking and communication skills in a non-threatening environment
  7. Etc.
On a personal/family level it has been incredibly gratifying.
  1. Pre-teen daughter picked up blogging as a way of journaling her thoughts and experiences. She has now gone on to help several of her classmates set up their own blogs.
  2. She learned with me how to edit and stitch together her soccer videos using windows movie maker and post on YouTube and share with her friends (private limited URL) - She had to select the "good" parts and eliminate the videos of "mistakes". This helped her to review her soccer skills and identify areas for improvement. (Sneaky heh? Hope she does not find this post!)
  3. Wife and daughter get invited to dance at various social events (e.g. weddings). Helped them create coaching dance videos and share with attendees before the event on YouTube. The people who saw the videos felt comfortable joining them for a group dance at the end of their performance!
  4. Found that wife and I tend to post news items of each others accomplishments on FB. Recognized that we value and respect each other more than we might have let on before! It seems to mean even more than telling each other - great job on that seminar or dance!
  5. Etc
Seems like a win-win right?
Still I think we still need to find a balance in our work, personal and families and computers and the Internet can be a challenge in this struggle. Used creatively social media might actually help solve the problem.

Before you jump headfirst into this, one suggestion - if you can, use 2 computers:
  • Computer 1 (AKA work computer) - turn off e-mail, FB and Tweet alerts. On that computer, make sure you don't visit any social media site. Use this for collecting and analysing your research data, writing your articles, completing your patient visit notes and other electronic health record tasks, etc.
  • Computer 2 (AKA SM computer) - keep several tabs open on your Social Media related sites. Google reader, Tweetdeck etc. also get used on this computer. Make sure to keep it on mute so you cannot hear alerts.
Then every 1-2 hours (or whatever works for you) when your mind is exhausted turn to computer 2 and have a refreshing, rejuvenating experience!
Does this work? Well seeing that I started doing this only recently and this is my first Blog in over a month, it seems it does.
So which computer did I use to write this blog? The work computer of course!