To Tweet, or not to Tweet?

I attended a conference a few years ago where participant engagement was encouraged through Twitter.  Tweets that were sent to the conference group twitter site were simultaneously posted to screens around the conference venue.  In keeping with the spirit of the even, I opened a Twitter account. However, after the conference, I was only minimally active. I wasn’t keen on tweeting details about my life to the world.  In addition, I didn’t have an understanding of the potential of Twitter in my professional life. Although my children and their friends have Twitter accounts, most of my colleagues aren’t involved in Twitter and the only time I’d heard of it was through discussions about celebrities.

A few months after I opened my own Twitter account I took on the role of Associate Editor at EBN where part of my work is to tweet on @EBNursingBMJ.  I started by tweeting links to commentaries in EBN. Then I branched out to searching health and news websites for interesting articles or new research related to nursing and health.  I started reading tweets of others and found extraordinary people with similar interests from around the globe. I retweet comments that I think are relevant and interesting to the EBN followers. Twitter allows you to reply to tweets and open a short dialogue about a topic, or switch to a hastag # symbol and open the discussion up to anyone who is interested.  I’ve watched friendships develop through Twitter.  It’s amazing to me how much can be said in 140 characters.

I started to understand the potential of Twitter in my professional life.  In searching out interesting findings, I’m keeping up to date in research and health policy.  I’m developing a greater understanding of the work of nurses and health care professionals in other countries.  I’ve also realized how easily links to articles and blogs, such as this, can be incorporated into a short tweet.  As I grew into the role at EBN, I applied what I’d learned to my own Twitter account.

Not everything in this type of social media is positive.  I quickly realized that Twitter is used for marketing businesses or products. Some people post inappropriate content.  Whenever I see something I’m not comfortable with, I ‘unfollow’ the account. A final note is accounts can be hacked.

Despite the pitfalls, I really enjoy tweeting.  Reading and posting tweets has become a relaxing part of my day, but I realize the addictive nature and I’m careful not to spend too much time on it! I feel I’ve just started to learn the potential of Twitter and other social media to my clinical practice and as an educator.

My intention with this blog is not to recruit for, or to promote Twitter.  I realize that there are many people who are not interested in social media and have concerns. My message is about what I’ve experienced including the professional benefits I’ve found in tweeting; in particular, the discovery of a means of searching for and disseminating evidence that is…dare I say it? ….fun!  So, if you are already an avid tweeter, or simply interested in dabbling a bit,  I would encourage you to follow us @EBNursingBMJ or me @robertaheale.

Roberta Heale

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