This tweet recently crossed my timeline:
“If you don’t engage, there is no point having followers. Agree?”
No. I don’t agree
Why? Because a comment like that immediately disenfranchises the 40% of those on Twitter who never tweet. These are the same people that go to public meetings and never ask questions. This is acceptable in a public meeting, and it should be on Twitter. Being inactive does not mean being disinterested.
People join Twitter for a variety of reasons,. For gossip, news, humour and information. And in the healthcare sphere, it’s information that is important. Good, reliable, orthodox information.
At the healthcare coalface it soon becomes clear that a large minority of the population fall into one or more of these categories:
- are busy, have no time or interest to engage, just want the facts, then out
- dislike chit-chat
- are uncomfortable expressing their opinion
- do not have English as their first language
- are naturally laconic
- are none of the above but, on the day, just don’t want to talk
It’s the role of the treating health worker to recognise one or more of these traits in a person, and offer choices and solutions for their presenting complaint in an appropriate way. But it is not their role to say “Look, if you don’t engage with me, you might as well leave”. It’s the same with professional Social Media.
People in healthcare on Twitter who demand engagement as a sine qua non of “following” are usually confident communicators who have spent their life discussing/arguing/presenting their point of view at seminars/meeting/lectures/classes. It so happens that a lot of well-adjusted citizens have either not had, or, importantly, not enjoyed, that type of experience. These followers are there to read and learn and understand. I am not alone in this opinion. Ted Rubin on Mashable has a similar view (see Why You Should Embrace Twitter Lurkers), although his approach is more business-orientated.
One of the great strengths of Twitter is its humanism, in the social science rather than philosophical sense. There is no need to like…love…talk…engage. If you are human, you can just be there.
Come to think of it, if you are NOT human, then I really would like a tweet from you…