A message to my fellow Twitter Luddites

Good morning,

This message could also have as its subject “You know you’re approaching middle age when… or maybe not.”

I sent this as an email message to a few colleagues, and am now posting it on the blog.

If you are receiving this, it is because I consider you a significant person in the world of healthcare and healthcare IT and someone I respect. And, like me, I don’t think you’ve jumped fully onto the Twitter band wagon yet. If you have, I haven’t heard about it. I like to think we are reasonably close to the edge of technology leadership as it relates to healthcare, but I, at least, have had a tough time getting into Twitter. I understand the technology and I see the value on an abstract level, but there is some barrier to completely embracing it that I haven’t been able to navigate around.

Every morning, one of the first things I do, and do again at compulsively frequent intervals throughout the day, is check my email. Yet somehow, I just have not been able to engage with Twitter in anything approaching that level of compulsion. I check it once in awhile–usually when I’m avoiding something else I don’t want to do, and I do follow it closely in connection with certain conferences or discussion groups, but that is occasional at best.

As for Tweeting myself, that is anathema to me. The idea that any spontaneous thing I could say in 140 characters out of context would be of interest to you is just too foreign to consider. After all, I’ve spent years trying (and failing) to teach myself that it is better to shut up and look stupid than to say too much and prove the point. Twitter flies in the face of that solid common sense.

Then too I face my college training as a journalist and career experience that words persist and become a part of who you are–or at least who you are perceived to be. Thoughts need to be vetted, and qualified with appropriate disclosure and disclaimer before they are released to the wide open world. Or else! That’s why I tend to give essay answers to “yes” or “no” questions. That’s why it takes me a half a day to write a blog post. I like words and ideas. (Evidence this message. )

Over the last year or so, a number of people, mostly in the trade, have either asked me for my handle or have just signed up as a follower on Twitter. These are people I respect, and whose respect I desire. Yikes. Another expectation I will fail to meet.

And I have posted Tweets in bursts. When I rode a 50 mile bike ride in the rain as a cancer research fundraising event for my friend Ann Smolowe, I Tweeted a message at every 10 mile break from my iPhone. I was surprised at the number of folks that followed my progress and participated vicariously in this important event. And I’ve taken to following the Twitter lead at certain conferences like IHI and HIMSS–albeit inconsistently. And I’ll even post a Tweet or two when I attend a particularly good lecture or concert here in Ann Arbor. I guess I’m on that slippery slope someplace. The thing is, I never cared or thought about who might see these because I knew that nobody was interested in what I had to say, least of all you. There’s a certain comfort and freedom in that.

And that interest did not reach critical mass–until recently. Now, as I schedule meetings for next week’s HIMSS convention in Las Vegas, and as my involvement with HL7 and the HIMSS Personal Health Information Task Force increases, and as our company gains increased visibility in the market, the number of people who have expressed not only an interest in but an expectation that they can follow me on Twitter has reached critical mass. I can’t hide no more.

Which is why I’m thinking of you this morning. Maybe you are in a position like me. If so, then let’s work through this together and have a little fun with it as well. When I sit down to Tweet, I will speak to you, not the amorphous cloud.

So, I resolve to start Tweeting everyday. As a test, I’ll try to post three Tweets a day. (Surely I can think of three interesting things to say in a day!!) I intend to avoid useless junk like what I’m eating for lunch or that I’m stuck at a traffic light–the kind of garbage that immediately turned me off to Twitter in the first place. Instead, I’ll try to Tweet things that might be of interest and maybe even of value to you. I also resolve to do a better job of following the Tweets of people I respect and the hash tag threads of topics that I should know about. And, finally, if you are active in the Twittersphere, I resolve to follow you.

I admit I’m not really fluent in Twitter-eze. I think I know what I need to do to create a hash tag (just do it), and I think I know how to refer back to a previous post. I have no idea how to upload a picture or make a Tweet private. So, the only expectation you should have is that this should be entertaining–in a masochistic kind of way.

Here’s my handle: @SPINNpeddler. (I know, I really, really need something better. Suggestions will be accepted.)

I’ll create a hash tag for SPINN. (I’ll start with “#SPINN”. Hopefully that hasn’t been taken. If it has, I’ll try “#SPINNphr”. After that, I have no idea.

I’ll follow the following people:

John Moore (@John_Chilmark) John is a good friend and the best analyst in the healthcare IT biz. Want to know my opinion on just about anything? That’s easy. The answer is “What he said.” His use of Twitter is ideal.

Lygeia Riccardi (@Lygeia) Lygeia is a Senior Policy Adviser on Consumer Health at the ONC. She’s new to me, but I’ve been impressed so far.

Brad Tritle (@BTritle) Among other things, Brad is chair of the HIMSS Personal Health Information Technology Task Force sub-committee on social media in healthcare. He is a real gold mine of information and thoughtful knowledge. Simply put, he’s one of the people to whom you just need to pay attention.

Patricia F Anderson (@pfatech) Patricia is the Emerging Technologies Librarian for the University of Michigan Health Service. She is the uber social media queen. She Tweets more than I can digest, but in there I find the most important gems (like the whole discussion about the recent FDA jump into healthcare social media regulation).

There are a few others, but this is a good start.

Finally, I want to mention some of the the hash tags I’ve started to follow:

#hcsm is a tremendous thread dedicated to social media in healthcare. They convene on Twitter every Sunday evening from 9:00 till 10:00 pm to Tweet about a specific topic in healthcare social media. This tag/group has been running since 2009 and is a very diverse group. Now that football season is over, I might even follow them more regularly. Check out the associated web site at http://www.healthsocmed.com.

#hitsm is another thread clearly linking social media to health information technology. I don’t have a good feel for it yet, but at first blush it feels more about technology than policy.

#futuremed is one I just ran across recently. At first pass, it looks really diverse. Could be a good source of inspiration and ideas.

That’s my rant for this morning. I hope you don’t mind this intrusion. If you would like to follow my Tweets, now you know how. If not, that’s fine too. I’ll never know either way unless you Tweet back to me.

As for the generational question I posed at the top, clearly this isn’t a generational question anymore. Just look at the profiles of the folks you’ll find through the above hash tags and you’ll see. This is a question of innovation and leadership. I am a Twitter Luddite no more.

Now it’s time to Tweet something–as soon as I clear my recent emails and think of something worth saying.

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One thought on “A message to my fellow Twitter Luddites

  1. Hi @SPINNpeddler!
    I REALLY ENJOYED Your Blog You wrote!! Thankyou for your time you took to write it!!! I’m reading it tonight,on April 13,2012, Friday the 13th at That!!!

    Anyway,I want You to know,that between watching The Tonight Show w/ David Letterman, & He & Julie Louise-Dreyfuss talked about Hashtags on Twitter(and I had NO CLUE what those were!) & pulling up your blog You have written, I Now have a Strong Desire to get Involved w/using Twitter!!!

    I had wanted to before. I just have been too scared & Overwhelmed by it All. After reading Your blog,I feel I CAN Do “This”! So I feel Encouraged & Excited!!!! Thankyou So Much!!!!
    You Helped,to Give Me Inspiration!!!!

    Warmly,
    Angel Forster

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