It’s becoming pretty clear to anyone who isn’t living in a cupboard or a Jane Austen serial that there’s something of an information explosion underway and that finding what you want to know could be exasperating to say the least. Where do you start? Who do you ask? At one time, our main source was the newspaper held proprietorially by the man of the house while he puffed quietly on his pipe behind his printed screen. Then there was the TV and the Six o Clock News. We pretty much stood to attention for that, newscasters, as they were called, being all done up in dinner suits and dicky bows. Life was simple, structured, and predictable. You knew where you were. If the PM came on the radio at some ungodly hour, war had broken out, no more and no less; he wasn’t there talking about his preference for Gorillaz over Dizzee Rascal.
Twenty-first century seekers after knowledge are spoilt for choice. The papers still exist although now you can download them to portable gizmos like the iPad, their days would seem to be numbered. TV news is available in perpetual hourly loops with little of value being added by non-witnesses (the bloke who lives across the road from the woman who asked someone else what happened) cornered in desperation by reporters with ‘windows’. Then there’s the iPlayer and all those other catch-up portals, website home pages with their news snippets targeting what they see as their particular demographic, and the plethora of search engines. Oh and Twitter. Twitter with its 140 character micro-blogging facility, its adoption by the vacuoso who want us all to know about their new neighbour who is, like, totally fit. That Twitter. Surely Twitter can’t be used to aggregate information can it? Well yes it can, yes it does, and yes we will if we know what’s good for us. Twitter use, small still by Facebook standards, has increased its membership by a reported 1000% plus year on year. People use hash tags (#) to label and search on topics of interest, and create lists of followers to which content can be cascaded.
Businesses will ignore this to their cost but what about health services? What does social networking have to offer health professionals, patients, carers, and an interested public? I suspect, a great deal but first we need to ask some questions. Up top on this page should be a poll about how you go about tracking down information. Down here should be another one about how to use these platforms to our mutual benefit. Please take a moment or three..