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Social Media & Healthcare

This was my nth presentation on this topic so most of my slides came from previous slide decks. But it was the first time I, a self-proclaimed social media evangelist, began on a somber note –

I am honored to deliver the Dr. Elpidio Gamboa memorial lecture this morning. Thank you PSMID for inviting me to share my thoughts on social media and healthcare. Lately, Facebook has become a playground for misogynists and racists, a battlefield for keyboard warriors, and an echo chamber that reinforces opinion no matter how misguided. It would be so easy to just log off but it would also mean being cut off from conversing with the world. I remain an optimist. I still consider myself a social media evangelist for healthcare! While Facebook still won’t acknowledge that it is no longer just a social network, but a news platform that can sway opinion and win elections; while Twitter still hasn’t solved the problem of trolls and is in the brink of financial ruin; let me share with you why I am active on social media and what I’m doing in that space.


Yet again, I asked my audience to join Twitter. This time saying that Facebook by lessening the degrees of separation has become an echo chamber. Wikipedia defines an echo chamber –

In news media an echo chamber is a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an “enclosed” system, where different or competing views are censored, disallowed, or otherwise underrepresented.

While we may all have heard of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, I only found out recently that six degrees was a theory put forth by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929. Google led me to the 1990 play Six Degrees of Separation by John Guare.

"I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet. The President of the United States, a gondolier in Venice, just fill in the names. I find it A) extremely comforting that we're so close, and B) like Chinese water torture that we're so close because you have to find the right six people to make the right connection... I am bound to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people."

- Ouisa Kittredge, a character in the play "Six Degrees of Separation"


Facebook claims it has reduced the degrees of separation to 3.57! Research at Facebook says –

Each person in the world (at least among the 1.59 billion people active on Facebook) is connected to every other person by an average of three and a half other people.

Couple that with the liberal use of the Unfriend or Unfollow button, and it becomes easy to create an echo chamber on Facebook. While the same applies to Twitter as I choose who to follow, unfollow or mute, being able to follow someone without asking for their approval as a Facebook friendship requires, exposes me to a more diverse universe of opinions. At least, that’s what I think. I’m not sure the audience was convinced.

If you were asked to choose between Facebook and Twitter, which one would you choose? I prefer Twitter as my personal learning network but I remain on Facebook because that’s where most Filipinos are. So I maintain still though lately someone asked me if it would be wise to get a verified Facebook page to guard against malicious organized mass reporting to block Facebook accounts as has happened to several Filipino journalists. What do you think?

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