Social Media and Nurses — Does Betty White Have a Point?

50 Social Media Icons/Ivan Walsh, via Flickr

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN interim editor-in-chief

I’ve been extremely busy and have had trouble finding time to write a post for this blog. And it’s not enough just to write a post—we’ve got to think about what should go on Facebook and what should be Tweeted, whether we should do a mention in the eNewsletter and if a topic deserves a spot on AJN’s home page. All this communication takes time.

When she hosted Saturday Night Live, the inimitable Betty White acknowledged all the fans on Facebook who were the driving force behind the campaign to have her become the host. She confessed she didn’t know what Facebook was, and said, “Now that I do know what it is, I have to say, it seems like a huge waste of time.”

Facebook and Twitter sort of remind me of the Valentine’s Day card exchange in grammar school—everyone bought boxes of 100 cards (actually, more like small, cheap postcards) so you could give them out and, hopefully, get as many in return. It was about the number of cards you could collect—even if they were from classmates you didn’t care about or even disliked. You felt good if you had lots of cards and people saw that you had lots of cards; getting just a few cards made you feel friendless.

I know why we at AJN are involved in all this e-media and social media—we want to connect with you, our readers and potential readers, and learn what’s important to you, what’s on nurses’ minds, so we can provide information that fits your needs and is important to your work. For the last 100 years, we’ve done this in print format, teaching videos, and conferences, but now there are many more venues for disseminating content. So we Tweet, blog, Facebook, comment, link, e-mail, and do everything we can to connect, deliver content, and get feedback. (Bonus: we have found some new columnists and authors through our e-efforts, and we’re constantly trading tips with other health care editors, journalists, and writers.)

But I’m still stymied about why so many nurses, who are extremely busy people, spend the time it takes to do all this connecting. After a long day (or night) at work, and then dealing with family and life obligations, what drives you to spend time online? Or do you not spend a lot of time in these ways? Or maybe you do your social networking on the fly, in pauses in work and commuting and travel . . . or, even better, over the dinner table in a restaurant instead of talking to each other (we’ve all seen that one)? And is it really “connecting” with friends? Don’t you call the people who are really friends on the telephone? Or is it because it’s a fun new thing? Do you find you and colleagues are using social media more or less than you did? Have you changed the way you use it?

So many outlets, so little time.

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Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.


  1. Shawn August 23, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Hi Kathy,
    In response to your question, I think the value of social media is as an extended network – nurses can get job leads, ask questions re practice and professional issues, learn what other nurses are thinking and doing which may give them ideas for their own practice. And of course, if they follow AJN, get accurate, evidence-based information and news alerts!

  2. Kathy Negri August 22, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    I happen to enjoy connecting with family, friends, and colleagues on Facebook. Although I live a busy life, working full-time, leading a non-profit club, raising children and being a good wife, I find time to connect on Facebook.

    I balance my schedule so that I am able to reach all my goals. For example, I set aside two hours a week for Facebook connection. Sundays and Thursdays are my days to socialize on Facebook. I spend no more than one hour each day.

    However, I have a question for you. How can Nurses boost their career using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn?

  3. Not Nurse Ratched August 9, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Social media can be a big time-suck, no doubt about it. But I’ve made friends and learned a lot through it. It’s a big part of my life, and after recent deliberation I feel it adds to my life. Fortuitously, I recently wrote a blog post about this: have a read!

  4. Barbara H. Portland OR August 9, 2010 at 11:32 am

    I started on MySpace to stay connected to my daughter who had moved to another state. When she migrated to Facebook, I followed and so did my other adult children. As a nursing student, my life is very busy. I make time for Facebook to stay connected with friends and family. I joined a couple of games that other family members started in on, but truthfully I cannot keep up with the games anymore. There are a few fellow student nurses in my collage of Facebook friends but even most of those are family. I will say this though, that AJN’s presence on Facebook is another way for me to connect with content I am interested in in regards to my chosen vocation. I read every post and I also subscribe to the magazine.

  5. Terri Schmitt August 9, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Great post and much food for thought. I agree that balance and time are something fleeting in our society. However, I will say that social media is how my students communicate. They do not call, they text, tweet, dm, facebook. As nursing faculty I need to be savy in these communication techniques so that I can teach them effective/safe/therapeutic communication through these venues and stay connected to them as well. Perhaps, encouraging and educating to balance is a better focus.
    Further :), I hate talking on the phone. I can DM someone in twitter and say what needs to be said without belaboring a conversation.

    I love reading the AJN blog via the net. It has influenced me to be more involved in the nursing community, nursing organizations like the ANA, and has provided me much food for thought in many aspects of my practice. THANK YOU AJN for blogging and for bringing up important issues like this.

    As the world of communication changes, nurses should have understanding and be at the forefront of this change. Being able to mentor my distance students from a distance and connect with some amazing nurses that I would never have met, let alone stayed connected with (I have a bad habit of not connecting with people I meet at conferences), meeting great health care players would not have been possible without these communication outlets. These communication forms are not going away and as communicators we must learn to use them wisely and with good purpose.

    Great topic!

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