(X% Body) + (Y% Words) + (Z% Pheromones) = The Enigma of Social Media

One of the most common (egregious?) misunderstandings concerning social media interactions is that they’re simply no different from face-to-face.

Although there are urban understandings of how body language and words contribute to communications, we really don’t know for sure. (See Misinterpretation of Mehrabian’s Rule.)

Not to mention pheromones, and who else knows what tiny subtle mechanisms at play in human inter-connectivity and communications.

We must understand what’s going on here. Why? Because you and I and everybody else are connecting less and less personally, and more and more via electronic telepathy.

Ergo: what happens via social media is different from face-to-face.

Now, this difference has down-sides.

But…but this difference has upsides as well. Think of Twitter’s value-extraction mechanism – tiny pearls of wisdom secreted though the tyrannical pressure of 140 characters as an instance.

Furthermore: there are inter-plays between the down-sides and up-sides of this differential.

The more you peel away, the more you peel away. Crazy, huh?

Crazy as it is, we must keep peeling away and plumbing the breadth and depths of how the presence of today’s technologies enhance, obsolesce, retrieve and flip the media of communication and other forms of human contact. See the pic below:


When thinking about Healthcare – how nurses, physicians and other HCPs aught to explore their personal/professional rights/responsibilities – it’s critical that we return to a media-analysis of what’s going on. We are moving towards a strange chimera of technology, psychology, ethics, communication, economics, politics and professional work.

^ What therapeutic communications do social media enhance?

^ What patient-provider relationships do social media obsolesce?

^ What practical wisdom do social media retrieve from the ancient past?

^ How far can we bend social media in Healthcare and what happens when they flip as a result?

That’s why I offer the quirky equation as the title of this post: we don’t know enough, but we can start with a framework. What I offer is just an intuition pump, not to be taken literally.

There is an enigma to social media.

We know some of the variables that compose this enigma, but not all. Not by worlds.

Let’s work out the algebraic topology that is the enigma of social friken media.





Rescuing the Message from the Medium

I fear we’re losing the message to the medium.

McLuhan was right – the medium is the message. But when McLuhan wrote his works, he was living in a time when media evolved in serial stages – that is, for hundreds of years, print dominated; then for decades radio came along; and then television.

Each of these media had their own particular influence on our senses: print enhanced our visual processing while dampening our oral tradition; radio somewhat brought back our oral tradition; and television further enhanced our visual and auditory senses.

Before the Web, people had time to adapt to these media because they came along in different stages. Media evolved serially in time.

But today the Web is evolving all different kinds of media at the same time. Today’s media evolve parallel in time.

The Web is mother of all media.

The influences of these ever-evolving/devolving media come at us at once – not over centuries nor decades, nor even years but months.

So if the media are the messages, what are we talking about? What’s being said? What are we losing?

Soon, our immersion in these media – by choice or not – will mean that the messages we send and receive are the media we use.

The implication of the medium is the message is that the message is a prisoner of the medium!

But there’s something wrong about that. There must be some rescuing element.

We simply can’t be social if the messages we send each other are not messages but media.

So how can we snatch back the message from the medium?

I argue that the rescuing element is Art.

I argue that Art is Technology’s creative twin.

Art has always been Able to Technology’s Cain.

And yet, Art always resurrects. “Art is eternal.” You never heard that about Technology, did you?

While Technology advances according to what’s created, Art creates what advances.

Art is our creation of meaning. Meaning, not the medium, should be the message.

If you want to have a meaningful life in a time where media are proliferating at an an unprecedented and ruthless pace, I suggest you do the work of creating the meaning instead of making turkey stuffing for media.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a lone individual expressing your passion or a multinational corporate enterprise: if most of what you’re doing is fueling the medium with messages, you won’t create meaning.

Any enterprise without meaning is just a shell – an empty medium propogating meaninglessness.

The way to rescue the message from the medium is to keep at the message.

Forget focusing on the media so much – create! create! create!

Create the message so full with meaning that it bursts right out of the medium.



Healthy Media

It’s so true that it’s a tired cliche: The medium is the message.

Marshall McLuhan’s proclamation almost 50 years ago has everything to do with our time.

Media are no longer intermittent parts of our lives.

Print, radio, television – you turned them on, you turned them off. You did the turning.

Today’s media – they stay on.  They’re sleepless faeries. They do the turning.

Each of these media has their own unique properties, possibilities, limits and uses.

What are the messages of these media? The media themselves.

The message of Social Media is Social Media.

So if the medium is unhealthy – addictive, misinforming, infiltrative, distracting – the message is unhealthy.

Those of us who want to make the best use of Social Media for healthcare, need a clearer language about how we can make the Web better for patients, providers, researchers, etc.

When we’re discussing the intersection of Healthcare and social media – whether a particular medium is good/bad for in a particular context – perhaps we should ask “Is this a healthy medium?”


It’s hard to understand what it means to claim “the medium is the message” because we’d like to think that the container and the content are different. The medium is the medium, we think.

Let’s think of it this way: What’s the message of a petri dish of bacteria? It’s the medium: the petri dish of bacteria.

The message of a gene is…a gene.

Healthy Media are those media which produce healthy messages. They propagate health.

The message of Healthy Media is Healthy Media.

If you’re looking for Healthy Media online, you’re looking in the wrong place.

So: what are Healthy Media? –

The cells in your body.

Your body.


You are a healthy medium propagating the message of you.


Sometimes the messages falter – bits and parts of you break-down. It may hurt. It may depress. It may kill.

But: there you are, all the while a propagating medium of health.

Can – and does – Social Media play an important part of staying and becoming healthy? Yes. And no. So you take the best and propagate the best.

But Social Media is not Healthy Media. It’s its own medium.

You, on they other hand, are a true social medium.

A healthy social medium.

What’s the message of your body? What messages are faltering?

Can you find other healthy social media – other you’s – to connect, share and help each other?

Because if you can do that, then you are building a network of Healthy Media.

Social Media isn’t the right phrase in Healthcare.

It’s Healthy Media.

You never thought of this before, but Medicine is about propagating Healthy Media.

Health Care keeps the Healthy Medium well; fixes it when it falters; and dignifies it when it dies.

You, my friend, are it!

You are a healthy medium.

You are the message of health.

The message of health is you.

@PhilBaumann@HealthIsSocialHealthy Messages from Hermes