Health Informatics

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Monday, 1 August 2011

The Rise of the Social Pathologist: The Importance of Social Media to Pathology

Eric F Glassy. “The Rise of the Social Pathologist: The Importance of Social Media to Pathology.” Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine. Northfield: Oct 2010. Volume 134. 

Most people reading this editorial are older than 55 years and have the paper version of Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine in hand. You surf the Web for news, perhaps buy a few items at, and exchange e-mail with friends and family. Social media or social networking probably seem best left to high school students. But you have seen its power by watching the demonstrations associated with the Iran election and the stream of user-generated images after the earthquakes in China, Haiti, and Chile. Real-time communication platforms like Twitter and Facebook had spread the word about what was happening within these nations, long before the mainstream media reported the story. The Chinese government, for example, first learned about the earthquake in the Sichuan province from its own citizens using social media.
These news stories may have led you to explore Facebook and Twitter, but the idea of opening your personal life-let alone your professional one-to Internet commentary seems perverse and an invitation to disaster. But there is no denying that social media-an umbrella term for the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, and audio―is becoming a force. At one point, Twitter was in the running to become Time Magazine’s ”Person of the Year.”
Social media is part of Web 2.0, the buzzword that refers to the evolution of the Internet from a passive viewing model (Web-as-information source) to a more personal and interactive experience (the participatory Web). A news story that is delivered online becomes social media if there is a place for readers to comment; the interactive component is the key. Internet applications now facilitate information sharing, interoperability, user-content generation, and collaboration, thereby democratizing knowledge and enriching the user experience.
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