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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Twitter is Bullshit

Last week, I had lunch with an old classmate who now practices Family Medicine in Ontario. It was a treat to sit and reminisce about a time when life was simpler and the world of medicine was full of optimism and possibility. We laughed and the conversation was a lighthearted walk through each of our practices.

We talked about the things we love about our jobs; about the challenges that face us as women and as doctors in the new century. There was the old idealism in our voices. The hope of contributing to a better world and the plan to make a difference at the bedside twinkled in our own mind’s eye.

We talked about the loss of respect facing our profession and the changes both good and bad that are transforming our vocations at an almost unrecognizable speed. I read an article in the Globe and Mail last month about how the health care system is “emotional fire from patients like never before”. Doctors, Nurses and health care providers have never been more disrespected than in this the information age.

My classmate confirmed my worst suspicions when she told me that last year she performed a pap and internal exam on a patient all while she text messaged on her Blackberry. While the patient was having her cervix examined she was (OMG) updating her Facebook page and planning her evening events. If this does not bring a whole new meaning to the word TWITTER…. Well. Enough said.

I am indeed a fan of multitasking as much as the next girl. I am also in favour of anything that can “pass the time” during any Gynecological exam. That being said… when did we as a species evolve to the point where we can not even pay attention when someone has a speculum in hand? Are we that important that the text message can not wait until the doctor has put the instrument down and “stepped away from the vehicle”?

I myself have had to ask patients to put away their books, phones, and Sudoku puzzles over the years. I recall more than a decade ago, well into my residency being asked to see a patient who was having a heart attack. His electrocardiogram confirmed the diagnosis, his bloodwork verified the fact and I was unable to share the news with him as he would not get off his cell phone long enough to chat with me. In fact each time I opened my mouth to “play doctor” I was met with his hand firmly in my face in a “just one minute” motion.

Make no mistake, I have very little etiquette when it come to my i-Phone. I routinely delight in listening to music at all times. I have full-on conversations with people while walking the streets. I can email and check my messages and download my boarding pass all from the train on the way to the airport from the comfort of my own telephone. It is the dream of every woman to do six things at once while talking to her friends AND shopping online.

The question is when does the multitasking become a full time job? Have our lives all become so insanely important that we need to update perfect strangers about what colour underwear we are wearing? Do daily social interactions need to be interrupted on a whim in order for us to seem more important than we really are? When did common decency die such painful death? When did so many care so much bout so little?

I had to ask: Can this service be used for the advancement of our health and not our demise? Who am I to make such demands? Will this Blog cure cancer? Will Girlfriends everywhere start a new movement? Can Text messaging be the key to our salvation and not our demise?

Last month, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced the "text4baby" campaign aimed at promoting the health of mothers and children.The service offers free text messages as often as daily to three times a week to pregnant and new mothers on topics such as Nutrition, Prenatal Care and Immunizations. The program aims to prevent premature births caused by poor nutrition, excess stress, smoking and alcohol consumption.

Studies in developing countries suggest texting programs can help reduce such unhealthy behaviors in pregnant women.
Studies have shown the benefits of text messaging in asthma control and smoking cessation among teens.

And so as with all things, I must accept the rain with the sun, the bad with the good, the stirrup pants with the little black dress and the texting during doctors appointments with better asthma control.

WE can all see things from a different point of view and perhaps I was too quick to judge the young woman who interrupted her regularly scheduled Pap test to update her Facebook page? No, I don’t think so….. Twitter is bullshit. You heard it here first.

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