Meaningful offline dialogue creates online inspiration

I’m all for the values of social media, as evidenced by my frequent use of Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and LinkedIn.

Recently, I realized again the value of a telephone conversation. I was on the phone with someone who I consider a mentor, someone who has fiercely guided me through my journey into social media without knowing the power of what was being done. It was the best 20 minutes of my week. I shared with him some strategy and some happenings for next semester, we chatted about a book I’m reading on his recommendation, which is one that I’ll review this weekend. We talked about pediatrics and certain branches, certain positives and negatives in specialties.

What struck me the most was the passionate rate at which we discussed everything that was involved in the conversation. It didn’t slow down. Just like Twitter, the feed never slowed. It was a constant exchange of ideas, and I’m excited.

The dialogue made me remember the kinds of credibility people have  when they offer for you to hear their voice or to see their face. The conversation starts online, and the action takes place offline. Putting a voice, a picture, and an association with an individual helps to make voice conversation insightful and meaningful, which is exactly what happened yesterday.

In healthcare, we see that there are ample opportunities to discuss social media and its usefulness in the exam room, but what happened to the art of meaningful offline dialogue that created online inspiration? For example, my offline conversation yesterday translated into a quick, easy blog post written in half an hour to let you know that I sometimes miss voice-to-voice communication.

Back in October, the New York Times published an article about Stanford’s Dr. Abraham Verghese and his work to revise the art of the physical exam in terms of physicians and their ability to diagnose diseases and conditions.  I challenge the article with this: the art of the physical exam involves so much more than diagnostics. The physician’s ability to communicate through listening, understanding, and explaining is often what the patient will take outside the exam room.

How do you value offline communication? How does it affect the way you conduct yourself online or otherwise? Do topics related to social media frequently arise in your conversation? If so, how do you handle it?

Erin Breedlove is a college student with cerebral palsy who blogs at Healthy, Unwealthy, and Becoming Wise.

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