Welcome to the Social Media ICU

Intensive care units have a few things in common with today’s online world:

  • They’re on 24/7
  • Crazy, random events can erupt at any moment
  • Following what’s happening can be as attention-splitting as Twitter’s public stream
  • The technology doesn’t always work…and you can freak out like an ape when it doesn’t
  • They’re noisy: cardiac monitors beeping beeping beeping; ventilator alarms going off like mad furious tweets…tweet! tweet! tweet! tweet! tweet! tweet! tweet! tweet! tweet! tweet! tweet! ReTweet! ReTweet! ReTweet! ReTweet! ReTweet! TWEET! TWEET! TWEET! TWEET!

I can back-in other similarities into this metaphor. But it’s the last one – noise – which is becoming a bigger concern as more of us use the Web as another staple of our daily communication, entertainment and productivity.

I loved working in the ICU. But the one thing that sometimes nailed me was the noise. I’d get home, take a shower and the tweet-beeps of the machines would still be stuck in my head. Maddening – especially after a string of 5 12-hour shifts and a six month-old at home to nurture.

Anyhoo, the social media world can get noisy, no matter how adept you are at filtering and organizing your online workflow.

There aren’t any perfect solutions, and I won’t offer any here.


But I will say this: it’s easy to get sucked into intensive social media units, especially if being online is part of your business.

I love it. I love connecting with others, producing content, working out business problems and “doing” social media for enterprises.

And it’s not as easy as some people would have you believe, like “set up a blog, tweet, be social, and remember sharing is caring!“.

Nope. It’s not like that at all. It’s more like nursing: ya gotta keep orienting, planning, processing, moving. It ain’t just “be nice to patients, smile and fluff their pillows”. Nursing care goes WAY deeper than that. So does good social media care. And care – high quality, long-term care – is hard work. And it is long-term care.

I thrive on this stuff, just like I thrived on the adrenaline fury of the ICU.

But not everyone can.


As more businesses, especially late adopters like those in Healthcare, get involved in social media, I wonder how the employees on the front line will handle the inevitable stresses.

In an increasingly noisy world, it won’t help to get louder. In fact, it will only stress you out more.

What helps? Focusing on what needs to be done. Being aware of your surrounding. Recruiting the relevant people to your cause. Putting technology into context that subordinates it to your experience. Invoking a quiet mind.

Noise, curiously, affects your vision. A quiet mind is a clear mind.

Social media strategy isn’t about being nice and social. It’s about problem-solving.

What does the patient need? If it’s a smile, then smile! But if it’s an aspiration needle for cardiac tamponade, drop the smile and move your ass.

ICU psychosis is a very real problem.

I’m beginning to wonder if Social Media Psychosis is becoming one too.


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