Professionalism and Social Media: Public Visibility of Plastic Surgeons on Facebook
Sarah E. Sasor, MD1, Julia A. Cook, MD1, Peter J. Nicksic, BA1, Stephen P. Duquette, MD1, William A. Wooden, MD1, Sunil S. Tholpady, MD, PhD1, Michael W. Chu, MD2.
1Indiana University, Indianapolis, IN, USA, 2Kaiser Permanente, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
Facebook is a popular, online social media and networking service with more than two billion active monthly users. Physicians using Facebook should be mindful of medical professionalism and confidentiality concerns. The purpose of this study is to identify unprofessional content on public Facebook accounts of plastic surgeons.
Facebook was queried with the names of all American Association of Plastic Surgeons (AAPS) members and plastic surgery residents. Profiles were assessed for unprofessional or objectionable content using the American Board of Plastic Surgery Code of Ethics. Statistical analysis was performed in SPSS.
A total of 838 AAPS members were identified; 34.2% had personal Facebook profiles. Approximately half of profiles were completely private (52.3%); 15.0% were semi-private; and 32.8% were publicly accessible. Sixteen members (5.6%) had unprofessional content, including hatred (political/religious/racism), alcohol, profanity, violence, and gambling.
Of 899 current plastic surgery residents, 64.1% had Facebook profiles: 45.3% were private; 33.0% were semi-private; and 21.7% were publicly visible. Unprofessional content was present on 14.9% of profiles. Alcohol, profanity, nudity/sexual content, hatred, violence, drugs, and hazing were identified. No statistically significant differences in content were seen when comparing gender, program location, PGY-level, or program type.
Compared to AAPS members, residents were more likely to have a Facebook profile (p<0.001) with fewer privacy settings (p=0.06) and more unprofessional content (p<0.001).
A substantial number of AAPS members and plastic surgery residents have publicly accessible Facebook profiles with unprofessional content. Physicians, especially trainees, should be aware of their digital footprint and remain professional online.
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