COMMENTARY

Does (S)He Who Tweets Loudest Rule?

Michelle L. O'Donoghue, MD, MPH

Disclosures

June 28, 2018

Hi. This is Dr Michelle O'Donoghue, reporting for Medscape.

When it comes to social media, I will be the first to admit that I have been somewhat of a slow adopter. For Facebook, I was probably one of the last people I knew to join. For Twitter, I created an account a few months ago. I only really use it for professional purposes. I thought that I would talk about Twitter and get people's reactions to Twitter as a platform for scientific discussion.

One of the wonderful things about Twitter is that in theory it is the great equalizer.

I find that one of the great strengths of Twitter is that I can quickly log in and see which publications people are talking about and get a feeling for people's reactions to particular trials or new breakthroughs. One of the wonderful things about Twitter is that in theory it is the great equalizer. Everybody is allowed a seat at the table; you do not have to have an invitation to be a discussant. It really allows a unique opportunity for everybody to have a say on a particular matter.

I have also found, not surprisingly, that the discussion is being largely dominated by a handful of vocal individuals. A lot of those individuals I greatly respect, so I really value their opinion on particular topics. There are a certain number of people who are in the mix just to create a little bit of controversy. Of course, it is always tempting to hear how that discussion unfolds as well.

It got me to thinking about how much our particular viewpoints on new releases, in terms of journal publications, are being heavily shaped and influenced by a handful of individuals on Twitter, for those of us who are active on that particular platform. It that a good thing or a bad thing?

Are the conversations too dominated by a certain few, and does that in any way negatively skew our opinion of the scientific literature?

When it comes to journal publications that are peer reviewed and editorials, they do tend to be fairly well balanced and even-keeled in terms of how the data are presented and the reactions as well. For Twitter, there is none of that. It allows people to really say what they believe. Of course, as I mentioned, people are somewhat drawn to the more controversial topics.

Does that negatively influence our opinions on scientific publications that are quite valuable when the conversation might be derailed by certain individuals? On the flip side, it can create a lot of enthusiasm for topics that people might have otherwise ignored.

I could view it as a plus or a minus. I am very curious to see what people are thinking—if they have that same reaction about the fact that, even though Twitter in theory allows everyone a seat at the table, are the conversations too dominated by a certain few, and does that in any way negatively skew our opinion of the scientific literature?

I am looking to you for comment. As always, I look forward to hearing from you. Signing off from Medscape, this is Dr Michelle O'Donoghue.

Follow Michelle O'Donoghue on Twitter: @_DrM_ODonoghue

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