The Wonderland Called #medtwitter
My childhood memories are full of discussions around prospective career and future job options. Until the 90s, the middle-class families had only two major aspirations: to bank up as many Fixed Deposits as possible, and to see their children get government jobs. A ‘sarkaari naukri’ was lucrative for the security, pension benefits, and (at times) optional nature of work that it brought with it. With the change in pension policy and ongoing privatization of state assets, government jobs have found themselves out of favour. Even in terms of security, no job seems completely safe – other than KL Rahul’s job in the Indian Cricket team.
Additionally, we now have higher professional ambitions than the workforce two decades ago. Rather than the ‘decent salary and a long-lunch-break’ aspirations of the baby-boomer era, my generation prefers Starbucks coupons, and lots of fame to go with it. I used to feel that the hunger for fame was limited to the ‘artistic’ or the corporate world. In the medical world, I thought it was limited to Instagram reels of catchy music featuring pointing at empty spaces, editing Googled Ctrl+C Ctrl+V texts into those spaces and calling it ‘content creation’. Just then, I ran into #medtwitter.
Time for disclaimers here, because these are difficult times, and the easily-offended species needs to be explained any obvious context in big bold letters. I use Twitter sparingly, mainly for two purposes: to read varying opinions about the latest political developments, and (as a result) run a risk of catching essential hypertension. So, whatever opinion I might have for #medtwitter is lopsided and majorly a fault of the Twitter algorithm. That algorithm can feed you poison, or it can feed you food-for-thought, depending on what you already believe in, and whether or not you’re gullible enough to believe what ‘independent fact-checking agencies’ say.
I’m sure #medtwitter had its heart in the right place when it started out. Medical professionals would’ve handed out medical information in an easy language for the lay person on a new-age, cool, mass media platform with verifiable views – you know – Preventive and Social Medicine’s wet dream. There would’ve been stories of sacrifice, grit and hard work going around, the camaraderie, the community and the tale of the odd miracle. Then soon enough, the universal rule of “if there’s an opportunity to add the term ‘toxic’ to anything, add it” was applied to it. (‘toxic #medtwitter’ is a popular twitter search term, not my words)
By the time I came across this hashtag, all I could see was incessant virtue-signalling and the online edition of Quiz contests, but with radiological images. I was genuinely interested in seeing a phenomenon which caters to bridge the divide between the general population and the medical world in terms of myths as well as bringing the two worlds closer, though all I could see was a poor medico’s version of LinkedIn, featuring more run-of-the-mill self-help rants and a few discussion forums catering to PG entrance exam preparations.
Of course, there would be the odd scenario where two or more prominent (read: medical professionals with too many followers and even more sense of self-worth) handles would fight it out over issues such as alternative medicine, political ideology, and ( wish I was making this one up) professional identity theft. In due time, it all started to look like a game of my-virtue-signalling-is-bigger-than-yours. You can easily find enormous threads on twitter based on the scientific principle called ‘waking up and swearing over one particular medical article for the rest of that day’.
You’d think that I was making a big deal out of this hashtag. I could just enjoy the good threads and ignore the silly ones. Maybe one could even enjoy the odd fight, for we have an audience for Saas-Bahu sagas as well as Bigg Boss in this nation. At the same time you’d find the same platform to transform into a stage of trending opinions and agendas regarding NEET exams. I do not have the slightest idea if the authorities take Twitter trends seriously, but in this world of crowdfunding scams and vendetta politics, the youth will end up paying a much bigger price for misinformation and confusion regarding their exams than just money.
Now if you’ve reached this point expecting me to offer some words on how to tackle it, you’re mistaken. Elon Musk should handle that, and he seems to be doing what he usually does, which makes very little sense to most of us, but since Musk is doing it, “there must be something to it”. I feel the vile fights, misinformation, etc. can all be easily ignored, except the identity theft. As a very learned person once said, “It’s not a joke. Millions of families suffer every year…”