For those of you new to the concept, a TweetChat is a pre-scheduled chat on a specific topic, in which people can participate using a #hashtag, during a specified time period. There is a range of health related regular chats emerging, such as the well-established #nhssm and the more recent #BPDchat,as well as a range of chats organised by specific professional groups.
@wenurses organise weekly TweetChats on nursing topics and I’d like to share a few reflections on the chat that took place last night (17 January 2013) using the hashtag #wenurses. You can find a post and storify of the conversation here.
The chat came about on the suggestion of @Anniecoops after she had read a joint post I put together with @chaosandcontrol on the subject of social media use in mental health inpatient settings. The post had a lot of hits, and a number people with inpatient experience, shared negative experiences they had had on wards, in the comments.
It was for this reason that I hoped that lots of people with personal inpatient experience would participate in the chat. In my experience of other NHS TweetChats, the professional/practitioner voice has predominated, and people with a patient or personal perspective have often only tentatively contributed. One possible reason for this became apparent when a tweep expressed concern about the amount of jargon that might be used and that they might not be able to keep up.
First learning point – even in social spaces like Twitter we all need to think carefully about using language that is inclusive and avoids alienating others from getting involved or creating cliques. It is necessary to actively invite people who may feel excluded and make an explicit point about avoiding jargon. The host should ask people to explain jargon when they use it.
The chat lasted an hour, and during that time there were 140 participants, over 1000 tweets and nearly 2 million impressions. The web page for this chat has already had over 1500 visits. It would not have been possible to organise anything offline on this scale without substantial expense and time.
Second learning point – the potential scale of participation on Twitter is immense and so is the reach, even to those who do not participate at the time. The ability to amplify and spread deliberative conversations is immense and makes Twitter a powerful tool in this respect.
I was struck by the diversity of participants during the chat. There were many nurses plus others with an interest in the topic, but most importantly there were lots of people sharing personal experiences. I believe this importantly influenced the quality of the discussion that took place. How often do nurses have the opportunity engage with people using services as part of their professional development?
Third learning point – the level playing field created by Twitter affords a more equal space for people to participate in deliberative discussion (assuming people aren’t excluded by jargon). Professionally led chats should actively seek out and encourage people with lived experience to get involved in enhance the quality and diversity of points of view.
Lastly, the sheer volume of tweets made it incredibly difficult to keep up with the discussion in real time. This caused me to reflect on the depth of deliberation which can take place during a Twitter chat, when the conversation is moving so fast.
Fourth learning point – the speed of chats may be at the expense of depth of discussion. However, this can be mitigated by the use of pre-reading, blog posts with invited comments, and curaton of the chat with the opportunity to comment provided. This means the deliberation starts way before the chat itself and can continue some time afterwards as well.
And a final question… to what extent does the public nature of the chat decrease people’s willingness to say what they really think? Is there the potential for people to agree with each other to either be seen to be nice or to avoid embarrassment or conflict? And is this any different to fears which we all tend to have in any group setting? Or does an online space ecrease inhibitions and enable people to say things they would not feel comfortable expressing face-to-face?
I would love to hear from you if you participated in the chat (or in other chats), either on the basis of your personal inpatient experience, nursing experience, or as just someone interested in the topic. What was your experience and do you have different or similar reflections to me?