I’ve been in hospital for a few days, for the first big surgery of my life. It’s gone well – I guess me typing a blog post is a sign of recovery. I’m still sitting here with a cold pack under my arm.

So while in hospital and generally in the health system, I am keeping an eye out for the effects of social media on the experience. (As an aside, German organisations are great at being available online. Less twitter and more websites and email, but still. Angela Merkel is very self-critical about the state of German digitalisation, but I generally see good things.)

The medical profession is generally very careful about social media use. There is a very good paper about all the pitfalls here. Problems mentioned include privacy issues, professionalism and defamatory statements.

From my point of view, the advice would extend to patients and their emotions. Health and disease are very, very emotional things. I was watching myself form a strong attachment to the one doctor with a good bedside manner even just in those three days in hospital, and I can only imagine if I had been there for longer, with more care received, or more of the less good bedside manner – if I had had a social media outlet for that, my drug-induced rudeness might have made me feel sorry later. And the doctors in question even more.

(Sober, and also mildly intoxicated, I am the kind of person who much rather expresses positive than negative things – but pain and pain medication changes you. I guess. That’s my excuse anyways.)

There are many areas outside of medicine, where the available experts advise caution about social media use and I would usually say ‘yes but what about all the good things. What if you could form actual bonds with people. What if we needed to arrange for you to experience some of the positive things before you make a blanket decision against it?’

Sometimes the advice sounds as if social media use was a bad habit, like smoking and teenage pregnancy. People in leadership positions often react to it with the same attitude. ‘Well I’m an intelligent person, I’m staying away from it, no problem.’ While to me, forming positive and respectful human relationships is everything but human weakness.

BUT in this case – maybe I have finally grown up – I do find myself siding with the experts on the side of caution. Let’s keep the doctor/patient relationship old-school. It’s better for everyone.

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