Social media is becoming increasingly prevalent, including in our field of radiation oncology. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs are used more now than they ever have been. In this age of social media, it makes sense that we utilize Facebook and Twitter for more than just keeping in touch with old friends or following celebrities. Social media can also be used to promote positive change around the world.
In my own experience, it can be used to help with patient advocacy, as well as increasing the amount of philanthropic opportunities available to potential volunteers. Doctors, hospitals, patients, caregivers and more are all turning to social media to connect and create a number of vital communities.
Radiation Nation, under the Twitter handle, @Rad_Nation, is just one example of this kind of community. Dr. Matthew Katz created Radiation Nation to share the latest information being discussed in radiation oncology. On Twitter, one weekend a month, a recently published article from a prominent radiation oncology journal is shared using the hashtag #radonc. Social media savvy patients, doctors, and other interested parties can follow along with the conversation and ask the author questions about the featured article/topic by generating their own tweets and using the designated hashtag.
There’s a lot of live tweeting and chatting that takes place during these events. What makes this type of event so unique is the fact that even if you only have a few people participating in a conversation on Twitter, it can easily lead to millions of people reading about the hot topics being posted. This is why social media is often referred to as viral marketing. Using social media platforms in this way is a great strategy to increase the depth of your audience and get people talking about subjects that matter to you!
While an obvious down side is a decrease in face-to-face interaction, use of these websites could actually increase face to face interaction. This is due to the fact that your organization, using social media, will have the opportunity to engage with individuals you would have otherwise never come into contact with. As of January 2014, 74% of online adults use social networking sites. More than 40% of consumers say they access health-related information on social media. Social media has the ability to spread the word about radiation oncology fasterm and to more people than other mediums. Don’t underestimate the power of 140 characters to help those that need this information!
 "Social Networking Fact Sheet." Pew Research Center: Internet Science and Tech. Pew, 27 Dec. 2013. Web. 07 Oct. 2015.