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Behind the Veil of Fear: Diving into Social Media as a Professional

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.
Image: Oksana Kuzmina/

Fear of Exposure

I hear from a lot of my professional friends, especially the doctors I’m in touch with regularly, about the fear of diving in — of starting out on their own social media journey. They’re watching us all swim around them, paralyzed by the thought of even dipping in their feet. It’s ok to feel that way. We all start somewhere, and many of us have experienced the same exact apprehension, at the start.

It dissipates, that fear. It dissolves, much like the well-known image of an alka-seltzer tablet dropped into a glass of water. And while it fizzles away with time, you can certainly prepare yourself for that dive by looking around you first — studying others and seeing what works.

But here’s the bottom line, and the key to getting yourself out there: there’s never a good time to dip into that water.

Think back to when you were young. You certainly didn’t have to wait until you were an Olympic swimmer to get into that pool and wade around. Not in the least bit. You put on floaties! Then you got in and splashed like a madman, and had a grand old time doing it. You even blindly Marco Polo’ed your way through that water! Somehow, you weren’t afraid. As you got accustomed to the feel of the warm water surrounding you, you gathered up the courage and shed that crutch — those same floaties you were so reliant on, at first.

Subsequently, you got better, the more times that you went in.

But many of you know this already, and yet you’re still holding back. So here’s what I want to ask the professionals among you — and I single out professionals because they’re the ones that have the most trouble starting out on this particular journey into social media — what’s holding you back from starting it?

The Etiology of a Professional’s Social Media Fear

Many of you may think of exposure on social media as ‘out of your comfort zone’, but why do you consider it ‘outside’ at all, when it isn’t ‘outside’ for anyone else who takes part in it?

Is it because you’re a doctor and need to stick to office visits? Or a lawyer that needs to hide behind the logistics of a courtroom case? How about a business man, who suits up for work and leaves his ideas behind him, in the hands of the private boardroom? We need to start shedding this What-Happens-In-Vegas-Stays-In-Vegas mentality about the professional world and embrace the amazing benefits that social media has to offer. What’s so great about hiding your Vegas experience anyway, when you can share it with the world — and I’m not referring to those raunchy experiences, of course, but am using the adage as a metaphor.

What if your insight and knowledge could help others, from outside the immediate vicinity of your office? And what if you could do something fantastic with it, even within your profession? Isn’t this exactly what social media first set out to achieve — to connect not only people, but also ideas, regardless of geographic location? Look how far it has gone!

From personal experience, I can tell you that doctors’ presence on social media was never a ‘thing of the norm’, until right about now. I personally had good friends tell me, back when I started my own journey, that I shouldn’t do it — that doctors weren’t ‘supposed’ to be engaged in it. They were ‘supposed’ to just ‘be doctors’.

But we are in times of change, and rather than conform to the old standard of the norm, it should be reasonable to push yourself outside of the box, and become at one with the innovations around you. When it comes to social media presence, especially, there’s a simple algorithm involved: if you’re not inside of it, then you’re simply out. You have to seriously consider which side you’d rather be on. And even if you’re not ready to step completely inside, you can at least be present, on that edge — the area that’s so called ‘outside, looking in.’ Because you never know when that inside will eventually draw you in, but you want to be present when that opportunity does arise.

Look, social media is here, and it’s here to stay, so you’re either choosing to utilize it to your own advantage, or you’re missing out on the next wave of future trend-setters, innovators, or creative influencers. Or you’re simply missing out on promoting your own business or brand.

My Own A-Ha Moment

Here’s where I was ultimately convinced that it mattered to be a part of the game — when I realized the conversations I was having with patients were moving them to action, and that those conversations could be generalized to others who weren’t physically there. When people asked what my diet consisted of, or for the scientific-backing of vaccines, or even how I felt about statins — and I was passionate about the advice that I gave — I thought of the patients who weren’t hearing my answers. In medicine today, there isn’t enough time to spread these messages among our patients in the 15-minute appointment slots we are assigned, so why not take our advice to what I refer to as the modern airwaves!

To bring our advice outside of closed doors and away from the need of a co-pay is priceless. I convinced myself of this long ago, and then braced for entry into the unknown — a social media world into which I dove head-first. I essentially listened to Nike and just did it.

And I’m so glad that I did.

With my own experience behind me, I’ve put together 5 Steps to Diving into Social Media as a Professional. To the doctors out there, you may recognize parts of my method, as I’ve incorporated and tweaked some pearls from the countless successful ‘smoking cessation visits’ I’ve experienced, which I view as precious in achieving long-term success. You can apply it to your social media journey in much the same way as you would when quitting an addiction.

The bottom line of it all is — Just Do It. To all you professional (and also non-professional) people out there, on the fence about taking that dive, start taking advantage of the free forums you have at your disposal, make like it’s 2018 (wait, it is!), and make your own professional account. Reach others, spread out, and build your future. To the doctors out there, it may never replace the personalized care of the coveted and sacred office setting, but it’s an important medium in which we need our voices heard.

Step out from behind that veil today, and take a dive.

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