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The Value of Social Media for Medical Students

In an increasingly digital world in which patients and physicians turn to the web for personal and professional reasons, it is to a medical student, and premedical student’s advantage to make themselves as visible as possible.
There is a tremendous amount of hesitation among pre-professional and professional students of all kinds when it comes to their presence on social media, primarily because we’re afraid of it costing us a future opportunity. You don’t have to look far on the internet to hear stories of stupid mistakes costing people big time opportunities.
Without a doubt, you should take your activity seriously and do your best to not be any less careless with your words on the web as you are in real life. They’re still you’re words and you’re still responsible for them. Words can be used to heal or hurt, so be careful where you point them.
All that said though, I think most of the fears of embracing social media as applicants and students is a bit overblown. Here’s why:
Having sat on an admissions committee and interviewed a number of students for medical school, I can tell you that applications and applicants all blur together and start to sound the same after a while. A good social media presence and making it easy to find is a way of providing a bigger snap shot at who you are and what makes you, you. Two one-hour interviews and a personal statement aren’t much to go by.
Another reason to be more visible and active on social media is that you can find some incredible resources by participating in Twitter chats and by interacting with other professionals who are active. Social media provides an even discussion ground between users, so it’s to your advantage to use it to talk to experts who are using media and otherwise meet some cool peers. It’s how I got connected with In-Training and the Almost Docs.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if you have good things to share, then by all means share it and let everyone see it! The more people that you can share your wisdom and experience with, the better. We all learn from each other and you’ll be surprised with how many people you can impact with parts of your life that are normal to you.
In making the transition from anonymity to active presence remember that it’s more of an art than a science. Here are some tips for getting started.
1. Be social. I know this sounds obvious, but believe me I see people who spend all of their tweets or Facebook posts promoting their work. The saying goes that two monologues don’t make a dialogue, so engage others. Reply, read their blogs, ask their expertise and learn how to share yours.
2. Share your expertise. I’ve learned a lot from following Ben Arment. He’s the founder of STORY conference in Chicago, and of Dream Year. He believes that you can be the best in the world at one thing, and I’m starting to believe him also. What I’ve learned in the last 18 months is that I know a few things that most people don’t, and that I can communicate those things well. I didn’t discover this at first. It took some time to figure out what I knew that was worth sharing, but started with following my passions. My recommendation to you is….
3. Share about the things you’re passionate about. Write blog posts, take pictures, tweet funny things. Be about something. Over time you mights start seeing a theme, I did. The topics I most often write about are perseverance, living outside your comfort zone, and treating people with dignity. Once you know what you’re about, run with it. This is what marketers call branding. By posting about what you’re passionate about you’re building your brand, which is something that sets you apart when an interviewer Googles you, or tracks you down on social media. But that only works if you’re easy to find…
4. Make yourself visible. Go ahead and type yourself into Google. The higher you end up on the results the better. Unfortunately, if you have a duplicitous name like me, there are also a lot of other people who are going to show up. When I typed myself in Google when I was writing this post there were a lot of questionable photos of not me that popped up at the top. You don’t run into my blog until halfway down the first page of results. That’s not the end of the world, I’m going to be found. But it stands to reason that if you’re going to use social media as a tool to build your brand, you want to be easy to find. When users search the internet for something, they rarely search past the first page. Make yourself easy to find by including a location or your school. It helps narrow the list quite a bit.
5. Now you have an unlimited platform that acts as an extension of your application. Use it as that. If what you’re passionate about ends up being evident in your application as well, all the better. Some circles call that “branding.” At it’s very worst, being helpful and sharing your expertise and passions on the web are a demonstration that you have hobbies. At it’s best, it’s a continuation of the brand that you put forth on your applications and interviews. Social media provides you and I with this new opportunity that was previously unavailable. It’s up to us to take advantage of it.

S
Sam Scott is a member of the Class of 2015 at an allopathic medical school in Northern Ohio. In previous lives he’s been a re-founding father of Phi Delta Theta International Fraternity, analytical chemist, youth pastor in west Dayton, OH, missions host in Dayton, and an intern in Kenya. He cares ... Sam Scott is a member of the Class of 2015 at an allopathic medical school in Northern Ohio. In previous lives he’s been a re-founding father of Phi...