Dave Weigel is a libertarian, right-leaning blogger who had been writing for the Washington Post. Although his politics veer right of center, he has no tolerance for the radical, wacky wing of the Republican Party (think Tea Partiers, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, etc.) Weigel was a member of the liberal-leaning listserv called JournoList (a private, by-invitation-only email group comprised of professional journalists and bloggers). JournoList provided a forum for these guys to exchange ideas with one another in an off the record fashion. Weigel, this week, in a moment of reckless writing, posted a thread on JournoList implying that the world would be a better place if Matt Drudge suddenly decided to self immolate.
Someone read the post and decided to break protocol. Ultimately, several of his off the record email posts were published for the general public on both the Daily Caller and FishbowlDC. Weigel subsequently resigned his position as a writer/blogger for the Washington Post.
The embroglio got me thinking social media and professionalism, in general. On places like Facebook and private blogs and Twitter accounts, people often present a far different characterization of themselves than the one they perhaps proffer in the office, at the hospital etc. Perhaps we sometimes trust too much that these two versions of ourselves do not overlap, that our secret rebellious, outgoing selves are secure behind passwords and restricted access walls. (This is why I don't do Twitter or Facebook--- Buckeye Surgeon is the sole source of learning about Dr Parks; no contradictions or duplicity. As long as I keep writing honestly, I don't feel any need to worry about reprisals.)
Sermo is a social network restricted to physicians (you have to give a verifiable medical license number in order to join). It's a great resource for docs. I've run cases by strangers on Sermo in real time while trying to decide upon an appropriate treatment plan for a difficult patient and have been aided immeasurably by the advice and comments I've received. But there are also posts about the political aspects of medicine and complaints about other specialties and rants about difficult patients and malpractice claims. And not everyone on Sermo chooses to be anonymous.
What if someone obtained access to Sermo for nefarious purposes? Perhaps a physician-turned-hospital administrator who went looking for dirt on a trouble-making internist. Or a malpractice attorney who used his brother-in-law's log-on ID to troll for cases.
Dave Weigel lost his job over a careless post on what he thought was a secure, private listserv. You figure it's not a question of if, but when, something similar will occur to casually flippant doc on a site like Sermo....