Doctors and Social Media



Out on pass is a borrowed term used in hospitals, where a patient is temporarily sent home for a respite, with promise to return for definitive treatment. Dr. Thaddeus C. Hinunangan is a physician by profession, and a writer by heart. His work was published in several anthologies and he also contributes to Philippine Daily Inquirer Opinion column.

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Doctor shaming is not new in the age of the internet, where people turn to social media to air out grievances against health care workers. Though I acknowledge the fact that some of the behaviors of healthcare workers are downright atrocious, they should be brought up in the proper forum.

Exposing the identity of the doctor or nurses subjects them to harassment from online trolls, and to what end? Nothing gets settled, nothing concrete materializes. The key in preventing these incidences would be, of course observing proper decorum at all times, maintaining one’s “cool” during confrontation with patients or relatives, and being wary that discussions should never be recorded sneakily.

Another issue is how much should we share in social media? As a blogger since 2007 (way before the Mocha Usons of the internet), I was very liberal in approving friend requests because it is one way of sharing one’s essays and published articles. I have almost 2,600 friends in one account, and the people I know personally amounts to a modest fifty or so. The only ones I communicate regularly are my two brothers.

I have long contemplated on deleting my Facebook account altogether. It is a distraction, I must admit, checking updates from friends or former co-workers a few minutes a day, but when added up it amounts to hours of productivity lost. Second, it was just strange when patients started adding me up on social media. For example, I may share a few jokes or anecdotes which I find funny and my closest friends would laugh with me, but any stranger might find either offensive or weird.

There is a certain level of propriety between patients and doctors. Their peeking into my private life was just bizarre on so many levels. I don’t mind old friends who became patients or anyone who had known me longer than a few years, but having strangers follow me on social media felt odd that I had to decline friend requests for the first time. Imagine doling out a diagnosis of cancer to a patient, then he/ she follows you on Facebook while I post pictures of say, a beach or birthday party where me and my friends are having fun. Seems insensitive to the patient somehow who is probably grappling with a sense of loss because of the malignant diagnosis. In the end, I just could not bring myself to approve the friend request.

Lastly, we all know of horror stories of people getting fired from venting out or saying something about their bosses, or posting something detrimental to the institution they work for that they find themselves jobless. In general, I was also cautious about adding up co-workers especially consultants, co-residents, or even medical technologists. It is not about being snobbish, but rather maintaining a respectable distance.

I remember I once shared a recent holiday at the beach, and wore swimming attire while snorkeling. I accidentally walked into a couple of med techs having a conversation about my holiday and my outfits. Don’t get me wrong, it was not negative at all. It was just unnerving having people talk about me.

Since I started blogging in 2007, I shared both happy and sad experiences, trips to different places, and people I’ve met. I am a storyteller essentially, and I never would have guessed I would have to “tone it down” in my current work. Don’t overshare, I warned myself before pressing the “POST” button on Instagram or Facebook.

I ask myself, should I censor myself just so people won’t talk about me, or should I just be myself and carry on? Unfriending them might send the “wrong message”, I thought. What a predicament, and it is unique to this generation. In the end, I decided, it was all about observing proper and courteous behavior whether online or offline.

March 2018 Health and Lifestyle

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