This week’s assignment is to write a blog post about our digital selves, from a private and a professional perspective. I’ve been involved in social media for several years. Through the four twitter accounts that I manage, I have been able to engage in the international emergency medicine community and in the more limited Swedish Twitter community. On a more personal level I interact with my friends on Facebook, both real-life friends and people I have made friends with through Twitter. And I write this blog, which started out as a way to promote emergency medicine in Sweden, but quickly developed into more personal reflections on my own development as an emergency physician.
I use social media on a daily basis, but I don’t understand the concept of having a digital identity. All my reflections online are the same as I would have in a real-life discussion. I don’t make any distinction between Tweeps and other friends or acquaintances. Some are closer than others and it is always great to meet up with people you have never met in person, but who you already consider your friends.
Having a strong social media presence has never been a goal for me. I don’t strive to increase my number of followers, but rather think that having a lot of followers would put pressure on me to write interesting things. Neither do I have any career goals for my digital presence. The Twitter accounts that I manage for our society are not meant to be reflections of my personal beliefs, but I like to keep my private accounts very personal and have omitted all references to my being a representative of others.
I wrote the above several weeks ago, but didn’t feel it was worth publishing on my blog. It seemed to plain and lacking of reflection. Then I learned that one of the high profiles of our social media community had been accused of sexually assaulting a patient. Since he is American, his name and photo, along with the name of his wife, were published in numerous online papers, something that would be unthinkable in Sweden. I don’t know if he was ever on Twitter, but he isn’t now and his amazing blog and podcast have been shut down, probably by himself. If he was on Facebook, he is not any longer. His name has been taken off the list of keynote speakers at an important conference. Most hits on Google are about the recent allegations and you have to search thoroughly to find his valuable contributions to emergency medicine. Even if I understand that erasing your digital self is a way to protect your privacy, it also takes away the opportunity for your social media friends to offer their support, like I would like to do to this person who has taught me so much.
Just like it is easy to reach world wide fame through a strong digital presence, that same platform can be used to bring you down in the most brutal way. Maybe that is one of the reasons I have been content with my rather anonymous presence. A badly worded tweet can easily cause irreparable damage if spread outside the small community used to my sense of humor. I don’t like to put myself in that position in real life, and my digital self is no different. We are one.