The Dream Job: Social Media and Health

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

For the past few weeks, I have been working as an intern in the communications department of Medavie Blue Cross. My job? Social media. Yes, I have the teenage dream job. I spend my days researching social media like Facebook and Twitter.

Like most Canadians (we here up north are actually one of the countries around the world with the greatest percentage of users; around 50% of us use Facebook), I am on Facebook and was already well-accustomed to the site when I started my internship. Twitter however, was a different ball game. Prior to my internship, I had signed up for Twitter, but I was a one-tweet wonder. I didn’t understand Twitter and figuring it out wasn’t too high on my list of priorities until my boss suggested I spend some time figuring it out.

Although most people have heard of Twitter, not everyone understands how it works, a fact highlighted by the thousands of Twitter accounts abandoned by users after a few days. Allow me to summarize: you tweet (fun fact: users coined the term ”tweet”, not the Twitter creators) messages of 140 characters or less in response to the question ”What are you doing?”, you follow people you want to get to know (unlike Facebook, you don’t request to follow people on Twitter, you simply do so. Very stalkerish, I know.), and if you’re interesting enough and don’t pester people with the minutae of your daily life, you get followed by people who are interested in you.

The key difference between Twitter and Facebook is that Facebook is private. On Facebook, you choose who you want to share information with and usually, you only befriend people you know. On Twitter, everything you post is distributed to your followers (followers might know you in ”real” life or they might not) and is visible to anyone who visits the Twitter site, whether or not they have Twitter accounts. Facebook is for keeping in touch with friends; Twitter is for talking to the world. Both sites have their purposes and although I still prefer the comparatively safe and secure haven that is Facebook, Twitter is fascinating.

Twitter is actually proving to be a good source of article ideas for this column. Brainstorming topic ideas for this column generally isn’t difficult, but I do have a tendency to focus on a few pet topics (obesity!). By following a few twitter accounts by health organizations, I have been exposed to news on a greater variety of health topics and have been able to expand my list of future article topics considerably.

If you’re curious, google Twitter and take a look at the following NB health-related twitter accounts:  @adosante, @WellnessNB

From the Time’s Health and Science section in their top 140 tweeters list: @sciandthecity, @atul_gawande, @TheLanclet, @stevesilberman, @marionnestle, @jonahlehrer, @michaelpollan, @PublicHealth, @NSF, @neiltyson.

Remember, even if you’re not interested in joining Twitter, as described above, you can read the latest news on Twitter whenever you like. But if you are on Twitter or do join Twitter, why not follow me at @aureliepare where I’ll be tweeting for the remainder of the month?

Originally published in the Times & Transcript on August 20th, 2011.

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