Social Media isn’t the Real World
This is an interesting guest post that the UK based website GDPUK published a few weeks ago. I thought that it was very good. The post is about problems with social media. It was written by Simon Thackeray, who is a general dental practitioner. I thought that it was very relevant to orthodontics and they gave me permission to publish it here.
Simon is originally from Yorkshire, North of England, where it is always Winter!
Social media and dentistry
No one can have missed the inexorable rise in the use of social media for virtually every kind of interaction we experience.
Dentistry has not been slow to embrace this revolution. There is no doubt that it is helpful as a mechanism of disseminating information, sharing new techniques, and even asking advice about a case. Accessing social media though our smartphones is perhaps the most common application of this media. Indeed, it is thought that phones are now become part of the way in which we experience life and how we form our memories. Certainly, creating a social media scrapbook to share with other people may be something that helps us look back on events, perhaps differently to how we did in the past.
Dangers of social media
But I worry that some people don’t sufficiently understand the dangers of social media. I’ve written about this before on this blog. Most of what I said then still holds true. But there may be people who measure their own lives against the social media “benchmark”.
There is a relatively new Facebook group called ‘Mental Dental’. This was set up to help dentists with some of the challenging mental health issues that can occur in our profession. Personally as someone who has suffered mental health issues in the past, I think it’s a pretty crass title, but the ethos of the group is actually pretty good. It may be that having this type of forum is beneficial to those wanting to ask advice, or just offload anonymously. Nevertheless, there are some quite worrying threads that appear from time to time.
The danger of comparisons with other dentists who post on social media
My attention was caught by one of the recent threads. This was about a practitioner who felt that they were unsuccessful in comparison to the other dentists who were posting their personal and professional successes. Their concern was so great that they were considering leaving the profession. There has always been a degree of ‘Keeping up with the Jones’s’ in all aspects of our lives. Indeed, until we becomes satisfied with ourselves as a person, there might always be a tendency for us to search for success via materialistic gains. However, what struck me in this case was the sheer despair this person was feeling, as a result of what some people post on social media.
Social media to this person had become the real world. They saw the posts of amazing composites, perfect implants, fast cars, pictures of first class seats and exotic holidays as the absolute reality of other peoples lives. The superficiality of such posts may be obvious to many, but not to those who may already be suffering from a change in their perception of the world due to the mental health issues that appear to be quite common in our profession. It might not be so easy to ignore this type post when someone is feeling depressed by the profession. Consequently, the damage can be potentially serious.
The “perfect World” of dental social media
There seems to be a lack of humility generally on social media that is behind these types of posts. Whilst it is everyone’s right to post what they want and when they want, the ‘Look at Me aren’t I great’, or the so-called ‘Humble brag’ type of posts sometimes serve only to make other people feel negatively toward the poster, or more worryingly, negative towards themselves. Importantly, there is usually no background to a social media post. As a result, we lose the context. Does the poster EVER have a bad day? Do they Ever have things go wrong in Clinic? Have they ever worried about their Health/Finances etc.? Given the tone of many of the posts we see, the answer to all the above appears to be no.
It’s important then to keep in mind that social media is NOT necessarily the truth. It is vitally important that we should all keep in touch with the real world around us. Social media is here to stay, but it needs taking with a large pinch of salt at times.
Emeritus Professor of Orthodontics, University of Manchester, UK.