Democracy is the a result of healthy civilization.
Healthcare is the result of democratic civilization.
Democracy and Healthcare are deeply interconnected – each depends on the other one.
The Internet, and social media in particular, are enabling inter-connections in new and yet-to-be understood ways.
So here’s a question at the heart of the intersection of health and social media: Does Social Media create and foster Democracy?
Since social media enable anybody in the world to express themselves, it would seem that they would engender democratic institutions. But Democracy is more than just freedom of speech.
Democracy involves the active participation of awakened, critical and astute citizens.
The problem with social media is that it can create the illusion of connection and voicing and democracy. Social media are no exceptions to the long history of power struggles, class warfare and the emergence of totalitarian states.
The Internet will have its states too – right now, we’re having a hard time visualizing that reality.
The Twitter revolution in Iran in 2009 wasn’t much of a revolution. Those brave Iranians who took to Twitter may have voiced themselves to the world, but their lack of a cohesive ground strategy was their downfall. Twitter, in fact, may have been a distraction and a deadly weapon in the hands of the dictatorship.
The point I wish to make is this: everyday, people go online to seek content, networks and applications which promise to help their lives. As Healthcare networks extend and enhance traditional Healthcare, how everybody participates must not devolve into some medieval cacophony of misinformation and miscommunication.
You see, what patients want from Healthcare is to be treated like human beings, like citizens, like participants in a Democracy. Phrases like ePatient and Empowered Patient, etc. are really about the democratization of Healthcare.
That democratization involves the collaboration of all parties involved in care.
If Social Media Freedom leads to something other than Democracy, the kinds of extensions to traditional Healthcare which the Web promises won’t work out well.
Democracy is a permanent revolution. So is Healthcare – from the science underlying it to the practices powering it.
In order for this permanent revolution to work right, we need renegades from all corners of health care (not just Healthcare). Doctors, nurses, researchers, case workers – all must be literate in accordance with today’s standards of Web literacy.
I would argue in fact, that in light of the dangers facing Democracy from the Fascism of cacophony and Illusion of Democracy, healthcare professionals have a duty to learn how these evolving technologies impact our lives.
The Freedom of Social Media isn’t really a Freedom of the People.
It’s a Freedom of Technology.
And Technology’s agenda is utterly different from Democracy’s.
What we do with the Freedom of Social Media has everything to do with the present and future of Democracy and Healthcare.