Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Diagnosis Social Media


Yesterday, though I had not exercised much, I found myself with a sore hip at one point when I got out of my chair from in front of my desk. I seem to be a bit better today, but I was all ready to take to social media to determine whether it was something worth getting checked out. You know, because my friends, the majority of whom did not even attend medical school, would be so helpful in making an accurate assessment of my situation. Also, everybody else does that, so it must be an acceptable form of diagnosis.

Alas, it is probably not the best idea to run to Doctor Facebook or Nurse Twitter complaining about inexplicable ailments. God forbid you go onto Instagram ER. Thanks, dude, I can't un-see that now!

Ironically, or certainly responsibly, the Aussies have taken measures to address this, creating "A Nurse's Guide to Twitter" to insure best practices when confronted with situations like the one friend of mine on Facebook who posted that he had just been bitten by a copperhead, a dangerously venomous snake here in the U.S. The most helpful responses were on the order of "I hope you are posting this from the hospital." Really, what is the point in a situation like that when you know you are far better off to drop the phone and get yourself to medical treatment immediately? As venomous serpents go, a bite from a copperhead is rarely life-threatening, but you can still lose a digit or something if you procrastinate. It's called "complications."

If social media were a prescription drug, or even an over-the-counter remedy, its label would include the disclaimer "results may vary," in bold lettering. Maybe it depends on who your friends are. Those engaged in the same profession, hobby, or family situation may well be able to say been there, done that regarding whatever accident resulted in the injury to your body or ego, or that of your offspring if you are serving as proxy for a younger patient.

This is not to say that there are no tangible, ultimately concrete benefits to taking the social media ambulance. For starters, it beats self-medicating. You may find that one of your local friends can attest to what excellent care they have received from Dr. X, or how well the Fix-it Clinic over on Main Street treats their walk-in patients, honors (insert your insurance company's name here), and brings you coffee while you wait. Those are probably the best kinds of outcomes we can hope for when we complain about our aches and pains.

The other kind of social media post happens when you are already under care, about to undergo a surgical procedure, or facing rehabilitation and other recovery-related matters. This is when your community of social media "physicians" can do no harm. We are more than happy to pray for you, offer our sincerest get-well-soon wishes, and even come visit you if that is possible and you desire it.

The real bottom line in posting our physical and psychological woes is that we don't want treatment suggestions as much as we want empathy and sympathy. Feel-good messages are what we seek in the comments under our posts. Misery really does love company, and I think it is just human nature to act on those desires. Be careful what you wish for, though. TMI (Too Much Information) is frequently shared once you start a thread like that. Do you really want to know about Uncle Joe's infected bunion in detail?

One thing most of us should do more of is express gratitude for our current good health. I am as guilty as the next person for taking my vitality for granted, thanks to guaranteed meals, clean water and breathable air, shelter, education, a relatively stable financial situation thanks to my spouse, medical insurance coverage, proximity to hospitals, caring friends and family, and a lot of other tangibles that too many people on the planet, even here in the U.S., do not have. It really is our responsibility to look out for those less fortunate, and help them reach the standard of living that we already enjoy.

Well, I better get up and move around a bit, lest my hip stiffen up again. May you all enjoy excellent health today, and every day, and have a joyous, charitable holiday season.


  1. Great article. Hopefully everyone has a couple social media friends who will push them to go see a real doctor.

  2. Really enjoyed reading this one, obvious related with much of it. The last two major paragraphs really resonated with me. Me myself, I feel I express so much on social media as an outlet, to express what is building up in my mind/body. I can't keep it in. I don't know what I look for in commentary, more so just acknowledgement of what is happening, helps me to not feel so isolated in my room with all of the pain, or love, or peace.

    1. Very well stated; and I can say that I learn much from your shared personal insights. Thank you!