Several weeks ago, I posted an Instagram photo with the purpose of talking about social media in the world of medicine. I received an overwhelming response from those on Instagram discussing the pros and cons of having a social media account especially in a career that is often deemed “prestigious and professional.” Everything that we post as premedical/medical professionals is often held to a higher standard because we deal with private information day in and day out. It is also part of our job to mentor and teach patients so what we post may be taken as true advice even if unintentional (ex. nutritional advice, products, etc.).
This topic came up because I had reached a point during my residency application process (earlier this year) where I didn’t know whether my social media would impact my application. With friends and classmates changing their names on Facebook to making Instagrams private, I have to admit that I panicked because I was afraid programs wouldn’t take me seriously if they found out I had an Instagram, nonetheless one that had 40k+ followers (I still don’t know how this happened).
Throughout the conversations on my post, I realized that we are incredibly lucky to have a medium that allows a wide variety of people to come together over their love of medicine. It allows us to see the behind-the-scenes of medical, PA, RNs, etc. students and I feel like I have a better understanding of how difficult each journey is. It also has opened many opportunities just like this one (blogging for The Merck Manuals Med Student Stories) and I have the ability to share my love of mentoring, writing, and photography with the world.
Unfortunately, not everyone sees social media as highly as we do and it may be a negative aspect of an application. One of my favorite former medical students/now intern was told to remove her Instagram account by her residency and that was the first time I realized how much of an impact social media can be. During my personal journey through the application/residency process, I’ve decided to err on the side of keeping my social media on the down-low because I am applying to a specialty that is still very traditional in their ways of choosing prospective residents. After discussing this topic with other fellow MS4s, there is a general consensus that we are not ashamed of what we post but don’t want anything that could be deemed “negative” on our applications.
My hope is that one day, programs will see the positives of social media and use it to their advantage to reach out the new generation. I think that there is the ability to educate the public in a medium that is used by so many people!