I’ve had a Twitter account for only 2 months. I opened an account for a project at work where I was examining how local health departments were using websites and social media to either present information or advertise events towards obesity prevention. I used it for one afternoon, maybe two, scrolling through posts, and then haven’t looked at it since this week when Twitter was one of the assigned topic. It’s been around for awhile, and like I’ve said in past posts, I’m quickly learning that I’m not as tech or social media savvy as I thought. I didn’t know what the purpose of a hashtag was for about 2 years, and I’m still just figuring now really figuring out how to use it effectively, nor did I understand that a hashtag was even connected to Twitter. Woops. For many months I thought, “Why do I need a twitter page when I have a Facebook??” And having never been a big sharer on social media, most of Facebook status updates were under 140 characters anyway. In fact, long Facebook posts can at times annoy me. The shorter and sweeter, the better! So exploring Twitter this week has forced me out of my Facebook comfort zone and look at it with an open mind. Here’s what I’ve noticed.
For the most part, I can classify twitter posts into two categories:
1) Quick, succinct and to the point: You get a quick tidbit and fact that is interesting or relevant to the site posting it and a nice link or page attached where you can get more information. These types of posts are great, they’re just enough to read and fit into the microblogging format. They pull you in and get you wanting for read more. The only downside I could see, and particularly for public health use, is that people can read a single statement and take that as the end-all, be-all, when in actuality you read the article and found that the study or research it was based on was not reliable, only applicable to a very specific subset of the population, or worse, may have drastic side effects for many people. I think the burden of responsibility to publish these quick tidbits falls mostly on the publisher, but every reader should take it with a grain of salt.
2) A big…or in this case, a micro tease: These posts reel you in and try to get you to go to another site without providing any actual information. A lot of those posts come from magazines or more entertainment sites, however, the one below for TED pulls in desperate parents without giving them the goods. I haven’t decided if this really bothers me or not, but I noticed as I was scrolling through that I clicked on the ones that gave me a bit more information and scanned right by these teasers.
So how do I see microblogging relating to public health or health information? I found so many sites that are from prominent health organizations, even state organizations and agencies. Many of these agencies are finding a way to communicate effectively, quickly, and easily to populations that may never visit their sites otherwise. For example, California DHCS has a Welltopia page that posts helpful prevention tools and ideas for the Medi-Cal population, but this site is accessible by everyone, not just Medi-Cal members and can draw unenrolled, but eligible members to get their services. Microblogging allows health organizations to present themselves and attract people to their services.