What's All the Chatter?

A Mixed-Methods Analysis of Emergency Physicians' Tweets

Jeff Riddell, MD; Alisha Brown, MD; Lynne Robins, PhD; Rafae Nauman, BA; Jeanette Yang, BA; Joshua Jauregui, MD

Disclosures

Western J Emerg Med. 2020;21(1):26-32. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Introduction: Twitter is growing in popularity and influence among emergency physicians (EP), with over 2200 self-identified EP users. As Twitter's popularity has increased among EPs so too has its influence. While there has been debate about the value of Twitter as an effective educational delivery tool, little attention has been paid to the nature of the conversation occurring on Twitter. We aim to describe how influential EPs use Twitter by characterizing the language, purpose, frequencies, content, and degree of engagement of their tweets.

Methods: We performed a mixed-methods analysis following a combined content analysis approach. We conducted qualitative and quantitative analyses of a sample of tweets from the 61 most influential EPs on Twitter. We present descriptive tweet characteristics and noteworthy themes.

Results: We analyzed 1375 unique tweets from 57 unique users, representing 93% of the influential Twitter EPs. A majority of tweets (1104/1375, 80%) elicited some response in the form of retweets, likes, or replies, demonstrating community engagement. The qualitative analysis identified 15 distinct categories of tweets.

Conclusion: Influential EPs on Twitter were engaged in largely medical conversations in which most messages generated some form of interaction. They shared resources and opinions while also building social rapport in a community of practice. This data can help EPs make informed decisions about social media engagement.

Introduction

Twitter is a social media platform that allows individuals to communicate through short, 280-character messages that are accessible to the public. Twitter has grown in popularity and influence among emergency physicians (EP) with over 2200 self-identified users in 2013.[1] More than a quarter of emergency medicine (EM) faculty now use Twitter.[2] EPs use Twitter for both formal and informal reasons including discussing clinical cases, collaborating on and disseminating research, advocating for patients, participating in journal clubs, promoting educational messages from national conferences, and providing feedback to learners.[3–9] Some have even suggested that Twitter has facilitated the formation of virtual communities of practice among its users.[10,11]

As Twitter's popularity has increased among EPs so too has its educational influence.[12] While there has been debate about the value of Twitter as an effective educational delivery tool, little attention has been paid to the nature of the conversation occurring on Twitter.[12–17] As the clinical and academic interaction among EPs continues to grow on social media platforms, a more robust understanding of the characteristics of these interactions can help provide a framework for conscientious EPs to consider whether Twitter represents a platform for meaningful communication among a professional digital community of practice or simply a "insubstantive fragmented" stream of "doubtful significance."[15,17]

This study addresses this gap by analyzing the messages of influential EPs on Twitter. We sought to describe the current state of Twitter usage among EPs by exploring the tweets of influential EPs. A deep exploration of the language, frequencies, domains, and degrees of engagement of their messages can provide a contextualized understanding of the real-life Twitter experience, allowing faculty and trainees to make mindful decisions about social media participation.

Objective

The purpose of this study was to describe the nature of EPs' communications on Twitter by characterizing the language, purpose, frequencies, content, and degree of engagement of their tweets.

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