Anonymous social networks expose the dark underbelly in medicine

I have been a member of a social network for physicians since 2008 or 2009. It’s a network that bills itself as a “virtual doctors’ lounge” and “voice of physicians.”  I joined because I thought it would be a great place to continue to interact with my peers, after I’d left the collegiality of medical school and residency behind for private practice.

I’m not sure what subset of physicians participates, but they aren’t my voice. Over the years, racism, bigotry, sexism, and resentment have erupted in many threads, manifested by straw man arguments, and ad hominem attacks.

It’s clear that doctors on the network are angry, but I wonder if their anger is misplaced. Physicians have failed to effectively organize to address grievances and, if my anonymous colleagues are typical, they identify as “victims.”  It’s always someone else’s fault: lawyers, insurance companies, medical boards, nurse practitioners, Obama, but never them. I understand that the “Golden Age” of the medical profession is in the past, when doctors earned proportionately more money and respect, with far less liability and limited requirements for privileges or licensure.  Even so, this simmering resentment and dissatisfaction is unwarranted.

By all measures, someone who has made it through medical school and residency, is fortunate in at least some measure. Most physicians were gifted with at least average intelligence, often more, and developed the drive or discipline to complete a rigorous course of study. Many were from an advantaged middle-class upbringing. Those who weren’t can expect to earn significantly more than most Americans and exponentially more than the rest of the world’s population. This suggests physicians should be grateful and happy people, but the largest social network for physicians seems to attract an angry and impotent group.

The other surprise is this: Many physicians are gullible and fail to do their research. They quote fake news, and when presented with the facts, they attack. I know it is a time when alternate facts run rampant on the Internet, but within a forum for professionals, particularly those schooled in evidence-based practice, I’ve been astounded at the lack of intellectual rigor. Their sources must support their confirmation bias. So, in sum, it’s been a disappointing forum.

We do the public a disservice by hiding this from the public. I would want to know whether or not my doctor looked at me and thought “welfare bitch, I’m sick of them.” That type of contempt is, in my opinion, a danger to patient well-being. I would want to know that my doctor thinks “Muslims are the scum of the earth.” Frankly, I’d want to know that about my colleague, if I were a Muslim physician. This type of hatred and prejudice is not uncommon, and it impairs judgement.  Since doctors’ lounges and restricted social networks are protected, I’m not sure the public will ever know the truth.  I think it is a potential safety issue and worth sounding the alarm.

The author is an anonymous physician.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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