Despite physical distancing during the pandemic, Twitter is a platform where clinicians around the world can connect. This reduces feelings of isolation and gives support to many.
“Holding you close, and giving you kisses . . . aren’t the only symbols of love. Watching over someone from afar is a kind of love, too.”—Sailor Pluto, “The Sailor Moon Series”
This year, known to many as “The Dumpster Fire 2020,” could also be nicknamed “The Year of Isolation.” We’re entering the second wave of a pandemic that has taken the lives of over 300,000 people. Physically distanced meet-ups, wearing a mask, and Zoom-fatigue are the new normal.
In America, there’s been a rise in hate crimes and people who are minoritized fear for their lives, rights, and physical, mental, and emotional safety. We’ve faced economic hardship, wildfires, and hurricanes. We have members of the government who believe that a $600 check is enough for the everyday Americans but corporations deserve millions.
Healthcare professionals are no strangers to isolation. Although we often work in teams, being a clinician was deemed “one of the loneliest professions.” Even before the pandemic, clinicians suffered higher rates of burnout and depression than their age-matched peers. Those statistics have only gotten worse during the pandemic.
Although healthcare professionals are being called “heroes,” many work without hazard-pay, and some people continue to ignore our pleas to simply wear a mask. Sometimes we feel alone, or as though we’re expendable. It may be challenging for us to talk about gratitude as the year draws to a close. However, even in nightmarish times, we found a way to forge a path forward. Like Ian Malcolm says in “Jurassic Park,” “Life finds a way.” We rose to the challenges and found a way to unite.
How? Well, at the beginning of the pandemic, an online movement grew called #MedTwitter. This is a hashtag that’s been around for quite some time, but something changed in 2020 Across disciplines, across the hierarchy that permeates healthcare systems, a community found itself. A community initiated their own transformation into something more than just a way to share information. During the pandemic, #MedTwitter evolved into supportive online family for healthcare professionals.
The hashtag #MedTwitter spawned spin-offs that also rose to prominence this year. #GayMedTwitter started as a way for LGBTQ+ clinicians to stay in touch virtually. This year, #GayMedTwitter solidified into a cohesive community of those often marginalized in medicine. The hashtag is now transitioning from #GayMedTwitter to #LGBTQinHealthcare to symbolize how we’re all together in this journey of being LGBTQ+ healthcare professionals.
Another community that blossomed online was #BlackMedTwitter. This rose in parallel with #BlackInTheIvory, a hashtag to bring to light the racism minorities face in the ivory towers of academia. On Twitter, we’ve found a place to be heard and care share our stories that have been stifled by our workplaces. On this new platform, we can see how many others resonate with our stories of hope, pain, loneliness, and triumph, within the medical field and without.
4 themes of gratitude:
Reflecting on gratitude during this bleak year on #MedTwitter, #LGBTQinHealthcare, and #BlackMedTwitter, a few themes emerged:
1. Finding family.
“I’m grateful for #GayMedTwitter and the friendships/connections I’ve made through it. Y’all made me feel like a part of the family. We’ve laughed/cried together, and supported each other throughout a year I’m sure we won’t forget. Thank you to everyone, y gracias por to do.”—Notorious BID, Future PharmD
“I’m really grateful for connections on #GaymedTwitter . . . it’s opened so many doors for me and ignited amazing friendships.” —Y’all Means All
2. Showing our true selves.
“[I’m grateful] for the community here. It’s so empowering to see in action the power and the value of our vulnerability and lived experiences as I’m learning to find my voice here.”—Dr. Aishwarya Rajagopalan
3. Coping with feelings of isolation.
“I’m grateful for the supportive community we’ve formed. We’ve been there for each other when many of us felt isolated . . . I’ve felt support at a time I needed it most.”—Social Worker for #BlackLivesMatter
“I’ve been grateful to have a place to come where people ‘get it,’ especially when COVID arrived at the start of my 3rd trimester . . . It’s a special community we have here.”—Naoise, MSW
4. Changing the culture of medicine.
“I remain eternally grateful to the members of #GayMedTwitter and #TransNBMedTwitter who are leading the way, opening their arms, and demonstrating that I—and others like me—have a space in healthcare. Every day y’all reassure me that it’ll all be okay.”—damn it Jem, I’m a (future) doctor!
Though we’ve faced many challenges this year, our strength, heart, community, and warmth have shown even more brightly and for that I’m forever grateful. In 2021, I know that we’ll continue shining, supporting one another, and making the world a better place. Most of all, I know that we’re all looking forward to that #MedTwitter brunch we’ve been planning forever with many bottomless mimosas.