PracticeUpdate: Dr. Pal, in your opinion, what are some of the relevant social media platforms for medical professionals?
Dr. Pal: I think that Twitter has emerged as the premier social media platform for medical professionals. I think, with other platforms, whether TikTok or Facebook or Instagram, there is probably more of a personal flair at play, and it's more challenging to really reflect professional interests. Whereas, with Twitter, you can take a focused approach and generate a profile that really reflects your interest in medicine. You can tag along with individuals and generate a circle of folks who reflect your interests in a manner that's much more straightforward than the other social media platforms that I've encountered.
PracticeUpdate: What are some of the potential benefits of maintaining a social media presence in the medical field?
Dr. Pal: You know, I have to tell you, I think a lot of people are skeptical about really maintaining a social media profile as they approach a career in medicine, and, it is true, it comes with some degree of responsibility. It's very important to think about the individual that you're going to be 10 or 20 or 30 years from now, potentially in a position of leadership at an institution. You are going to have to think to yourself, “How is the content that I'm reflecting today going to influence those positions down the line?” and certainly I think that speaks to the fact that you don't want to have a profile or platform that's perhaps too jovial. You'd want to have some sincerity and seriousness in the way that you conduct yourself on these platforms. I think the occasional post about friends or family is very reasonable, but, yeah, try not to make it overly personal.
I also think it's important to be very sensitive to political positions that you're taking as you approach social media. While I do think that there's a space for physicians to be very candid about their political opinions, we have to bear in mind that we all have very diverse patient populations that may or may not be sensitive to those sorts of opinions. And, frankly, in the matter of your own political future in medicine, you've got to be sensitive to the fact that people are going to be looking. They are definitely going to be looking at whatever you've represented yourself as 10 or 20 years previously as they consider you potentially to be at the helm of a hospital or the head of a department. So, it's very, very critical that folks bear that in mind.
PracticeUpdate: How can early-career medical professionals and students make an impact with their social media interactions?
Dr. Pal: I would suggest that people consider social media to really be a link; social media is the great equalizer. As a medical student, you have equivalent access to the department heads of major cancer centers or other institutions as you would if you were a faculty member there. You can reach out, comment on posts that you find of interest. I would encourage anyone to do so in a very professional and sincere way. And you can also, obviously, in many cases, have access to direct messaging of said individuals. And that really makes a tremendous difference in terms of being able to forge initial connections.
PracticeUpdate: What are some pitfalls that should be avoided when utilizing social media?
Dr. Pal: I think one of the major pitfalls that folks should avoid is becoming a little bit too personal, and that pertains to, perhaps, disclosing interests that might be construed as, potentially, offensive to some. I think that is especially relevant for political positions, where I think that, no matter what way you slice it, you run the risk of offending 50% of your audience just because of how divisive politics is nowadays. I think that we all really need to be sensitive to the way that we approach social media from that context because we never know who is going to be looking back at posts some 10 or 12 years from now. We see this all the time emerging in politics, and we see this occasionally emerging in medicine as well, where previously held views and principles that are inflammatory have come back to bite people years later.