Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

What makes you say “Yes”? I have begun my journey into the book Hidden in Plain Sight by Jan Chipchase. So far, Chipchase is interested in how we respond to new things and what leads us to adopt or reject them. He argues that adoption is not a one step process but rather a 5 step sequence: Awareness-getting to know about the existence of new things  Interest-wanting to find out more Evaluation-imagining one’s life with this new thing Testing- giving it a trial run and finally Adoption- a commitment to use. He further argues that we can be early adopters who are typically, but not always, innovators or the young and highly educated; medium stage adopters who are slightly older, perhaps less educated and late adopters or laggards and flat out rejectors.
Why do you adopt some things and reject others? The biggest factor seems to be what everyone else is doing. And why does this matter? For me, it matters because I want be part of the effort to effect widespread change in healthcare delivery and knowing what makes people behave a particular way seems central to that vision. Take a simple example: I was skeptical about joining Twitter for a long time. I wondered what was really worth saying in 140 characters. It seemed superficial and an excuse to spout fluff about bacon for breakfast (although, it should be noted that bacon is indeed delicious). Then, I found out people and organizations I respect were on it, and some of the dynamic ways it was being used and I began to reconsider my opinion. I have since joined Twitter and now integrate it in both personal and professional areas of interest. But did I simply have a limited understanding of Twitter or was my perception altered by those around me, even though the platform stayed the same? What was the “reality” of the usefulness of Twitter?
On the subject of reality, can we take a quick detour for a moment? I heard something thought provoking this week from a cognitive scientist who argued that we often do not perceive reality as it really is (optical illusions, misread social cues etc) but that this may not actually be a bad thing in every instance. This scientist ran some evolutionary experiments on his computer and found out that accurate perception of reality did not necessarily translate to increased survival. Is there an evolutionary benefit to believing certain illusions? Are we witnessing the triumph of tact?
Truth matters of course and I don’t think anyone would argue for living in a fantasy world defined by illusion, except perhaps actors, but that’s the job;) Is it in our benefit (or others’ benefit) to know everything accurately and share everything accurately at all times? For the die-hard “tell it like it is” types, this question may seem obvious, but consider the Alzheimer’s patient who keeps forgetting her husband has died. Every time we confirm that he has, she feels fresh grief. The next time she asks “Is my husband still at the store?” Is “Yes” more compassionate than breaking the news of his death once again? What happens when reality and compassion clash?
Or consider this headline from BBC Health this week:
Virtual reality could help stroke patients recover by “tricking” them into thinking their affected limb is more accurate than it really is, researchers find.” In this case, an illusion is central to the therapeutic process . . .
Stroke Arm

The virtual reality arm appears to move faster and more accurately than the real arm. Courtesy of BBC Health

Perhaps the guiding principle is that we should be more interested in meeting people where they are, than where they should be. This does not mean abandoning timeless ideals of truth and justice, but it does ask for a certain nuance and compassion in how we apply these lasting principles.

Moody Awori

Hon. Moody Awori, left (former Vice President of Kenya) with President Uhuru Kenyatta

At 5am a few days ago, I was awoken with a text with awful “news”: “Just heard Uncle Moody passed away yesterday.” I was in shock; not Uncle Moody, not the uncle who stepped into my dad’s shoes when he passed away when I was 11, not the uncle who spoke at his funeral and captured the essence of who my dad was in his compassionately eloquent style, not the Uncle who rose to the Vice Presidency of Kenya and became everyone’s “Uncle Moody.” As I grappled with the news, an inconsistency emerged. Although, the news of his death was being widely circulated in Kenyan social media, no one could get a confirmation of his death from the immediate family. And that’s when the real headline broke . . . it was a hoax. Someone hacked into the Twitter account of a local paper and posted the news of Uncle Moody’s “death.” This person even went so far as to hack the accounts of prominent politicians and post condolence messages on their behalf. Soon, the family confirmed he was in fact alive and well and I experienced extraordinary relief that carried me through the whole day  . . .

The whole bizarre episode got me thinking. Why was my relief so great? Of course, Uncle Moody is a close uncle who stepped into my dad’ shoes alongside my uncle Hanny (short for Hannington!) when my father passed away. But this is also someone I barely see in person these days because he lives in Kenya and I live in the US and my Kenya trips can be as long as 3 years apart. How then could the news of his “death” and the subsequent relief that it was not true have such a pronounced effect?  I have always assumed that “closeness” (proximity) is strongly related to “closeness” (intimacy) but that is only part of the story. I think we underestimate the scope of our influence in others’ lives. Right now, there is someone’s universe that is being grounded by the fact that you’re still here, even if this person is far away and you haven’t said a word in years. I think this is more than touchy feely wishful thinking. Do we really have an accurate grasp on what our life means to others?

This paradigm shift in what closeness means also made me consider those moments on the wards when we are trying to track down family for certain patients and it has proved elusive. It is tempting to focus on immediate family in the area when, in reality, the most significant relationship the patient has may be dressed very differently than our typical next of kin paradigms capture. According to a recent article in  JAMA, (The Journal of the American Medical Association), almost 1 in 10 patients specify someone other than immediate family members as their next of kin. Is it really worth it to hunt down that aunty in Alaska? Could be the one thing the patient truly wanted.

And what about the hoax? Will we ever know who thought it could somehow be funny or provocative to fake the news of Uncle Moody’s death? I don’t know. In an age where double-edged social media can create instant panic, truth may be elusive, but must still be sought out.

Social media helped create the lie, but social media also helped to correct it.