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It’s A Kind World After All: New Blog Collects Random Acts Of Humanity

prayerfriends/flickr

Reporters never cover good news. Everything in the paper/online/on the air/on TV is a downer. That’s essentially what people think about the media, right?

Well, Nate Goldman, a 23-year-old social media producer at WBUR has set out to change that…through voicemail and various other forms of storytelling.

His new “online experiment,” Kind World invites folks to leave a message about any random act of kindness, large or small, that moves them or changes their world in some way. I just noticed Kind World today, with this heartfelt medical-related post by Rick Colson of Watertown, whose wife died of breast cancer. You can listen to it online. Or read the transcript:

My wife was diagnosed with an environmentally related form of breast cancer many years ago and she passed away about two years ago. And after her diagnosis it became clear that one of the things that was going to be vital to try and help keep her well was a supply of good, quality organic foods. A neighbor from town during the time that my late wife was ill came by once a month with a little bag inside of which was a $500 gift certificate to Whole Foods. I can’t even begin to tell you the impact that this had on us. Month after month after month it allowed her to have the best nutrition she could find, the organic foods that she needed. And unfortunately her illness overcame her and she did ultimately pass away, but I will forever be grateful to the neighbors who did this for us – without being asked, entirely on their own, unselfishly. And I only wish there were more people like that in this world.

Nate said he created Kind World “to try to balance all of the negative news that’s painted the world. I wanted to show that despite how bad the world may seem, there are still these small acts of kindness happening all the time that are moving people.”

If you want to pass along a message or story about a kind act in your world, call Nate: 617-651-0909.

Social Media Anxiety Disorder (SMAD): The Next New Medical Condition?

Could the pressure of social media trigger trigger a mental disorder?

I had what might have been a symptom last month.

It happened the night I created a Pinterest account.  Pinterest is not inherently scary.  At least it shouldn’t be. It’s just one more thing.  One more place where there are a lot of eyeballs — which of course I want directed at my stuff.  One more place where I have to make new friends.  One more place where I don’t really know how to act or what to say.

I woke up that morning after signing up with Pinterest (and creating my first board) with my heart beating faster than usual.  This is silly, I thought.  If Pinterest is going to stress you out, I counseled my Inner Type A, just don’t do it.  No, no, said the ambitious one, this is where the women are, your target audience, you have to have a presence here.  The voices battled and prattled on.

I put both feet on the floor next to my bed before I picked up my phone.  I had vowed not to be one of those people who check their phone before they get out of bed. I would not get addicted to Twitter. I would make sure I was sitting up, with my feet out of bed before I slid one thumb to the Twitter, FB or email apps on my phone.

But I started to wonder that morning if I was getting a little out of control with the social media.  A racing heart triggered by Pinterest doesn’t sound normal.  Could Social Media Anxiety Disorder (or Social Media Anxiety Syndrome) be the next illness we create? Continue reading

How Twitter, Social Media Helped Detect Cholera In Haiti

Tweets From An Epidemic, Oct. 2010

In October 2010, when cholera was just beginning to spread through earthquake-ravaged Haiti, Tweets, blogs and other Internet-based social media detected and tracked the epidemic faster than traditional methods such as government surveillance reports, according to a new analysis by researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School.

The cholera epidemic has now killed nearly 7,000 people and sickened almost half a million.

The social media study, part of a special Haiti-themed issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, is characterized in a news release as “the first to demonstrate the use of data from “informal” media sources in monitoring an outbreak of a neglected tropical disease in a resource-limited setting,” and it demonstrates that “these sources can yield reliable decision-making data during deadly disease outbreaks almost in real-time, often far earlier than traditional surveillance methods that include surveys of hospitals and health clinics…”

The release quotes Rumi Chunara, Ph.D, of the Informatics Program at Children’s Hospital Boston, Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School, and the lead author of the study:

“When we analyzed news and Twitter feeds from the early days of the epidemic in 2010, we found they could be mined for valuable information on the cholera outbreak that was available up to two weeks ahead of surveillance reports issued by the government health ministry. The techniques we employed eventually could be used around the world as an affordable and efficient way to quickly detect the onset of an epidemic and then intervene with such things as vaccines and antibiotics…” Continue reading

Facebook Depression? Not So Fast Say MGH Shrinks

Facebook doesn't cause depression, say a pair of MGH psychiatrists

So, the highly influential American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a report on the impact of social media on kids and families, and in it the group cites a newish phenomenon afflicting teenagers called “Facebook Depression.”

They define the disorder like this: “depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.”

Well, a pair of child psychiatrists from Massachusetts General Hospital challenge the AAP’s assertion that a specific depressive disorder linked to Facebook exists, in a piece on the MGH website. The psychiatrists, Dr. Eugene Beresin, Director of the Center for Mental Health and Media at the MGH Department of Psychiatry and Associate Director Dr. Tristan Gorrindo suggest such a diagnosis could be problematic in several ways.

For one thing, Dr. Beresin says, it trivializes a serious neurobiological disorder (“Oh, it’s just Facebook Depression — not to worry” ).

Moreover, he adds, simply spending several hours fixed on a single activity might not necessarily be so bad. “I was groomed to be a concert pianist,” Beresin says. “I practiced piano 3, 4 hours a day, and no one called me “pianist depressed.”

And for some painfully awkward or shy kids, Facebook, or other social media, might actually be the pathway toward better social integration, he says.

Here, the doctors explain further:

While we applaud the efforts of the AAP to bring the dangers of unmonitored or extensive social media use to the attention of parents and clinicians, we worry that the term “Facebook Depression,” might be more confusing than helpful. As child psychiatrists, what concerns us is that there is no scientific study of this diagnosis, nor are there criteria for how this diagnosis is made. This might be confusing for parents and clinicians who see it billed in this report with the same level of importance as sexting, cyberbullying, and other behaviors that we know to be detrimental to children.

Additionally, the term “Facebook Depression,” confuses the real meaning of the term depression. A diagnosis of “depression” should not be based on the amount of time one spends with a particular media. Certainly, a student who practices piano five hours a day and then develops symptoms of depression, does not have “piano depression.” While it may be true that the excessive use of social media may be a form of an “addiction” or other “disorder” provided that it is dysfunctional and disrupts social, academic, or recreational functioning, these behaviors have not yet been formally labeled as disorders because careful research and clarification of these behaviors has not yet been completed – a similar process is needed before “Facebook Depression” can be deemed a valid disorder.

Beresin and Gorrindo explicitly state they don’t believe Facebook can cause depression (phew)! However, they do offer five important tips to parents of screen-addicted teens, and to pediatricians:

1. For pediatricians, we recommend that they incorporate an assessment of a teens “media diet” into all their check-up visits with teens. A Media Inventory should be a core part of all medical histories for children, adolescents and adults.

2. For parents, we agree with the AAP recommendation that they should be discussing internet use with their kids. However, we feel that these discussions should start long before their children are teens. Parents should begin talking to kids about computer use as early as possible. In fact, parents should be talking with their kids about relationships, risky behavior and other important social issues from early childhood – setting a tone early on that parents are open to discussion about confusing and difficult topics. Continue reading

Pediatrics Academy Advice On Social Media For Kids: Join In, Parents!

Just this morning, I got a slightly sheepish message from the father of of one of my daughter’s friends. He explained that for the purposes of supervision, he had joined the social Website that has been obsessing our third-grade girls lately, moshimonsters.com. So, he wrote, if my daughter mentions that he has “friended” her there, I should know that he was only trying to keep an eye on his daughter.

I smiled at the time. Really, I would never have worried that he was an online predator. But now I see that not only was he being an intelligently attentive father, he was doing exactly what the doctor ordered. And I’m resigning myself to the fact that I’m going to have to join the Moshi world and start collecting little “moshling” pets myself.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has just issued a new “clinical report” called “The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents and Families,” and one of its central recommendations is that pediatricians spur parents to get more involved in their children’s online lives. Not just put in place software watchdogs, but actively participate. The full report is here and its four suggestions to pediatricians are:

1. Advise parents to talk to their children and adolescents about their online use and the specific issues that today’s online kids face.
2. Advise parents to work on their own participation gap in their homes by becoming better educated about the many technologies their youngsters are using.
3. Discuss with families the need for a family online-use plan that involves regular family meetings to discuss online topics and checks of privacy settings and online profiles for inappropriate posts. The emphasis should be on citizenship and healthy behavior and not punitive action, unless truly warranted.
4. Discuss with parents the importance of supervising online activities via active participation and communication, as opposed to remote monitoring with a “net-nanny” program (software used to monitor the Internet in the absence of parents).

Sigh. I wonder which pet I should choose for my first moshling?

And please check out our NPR colleague Tina Barseghian’s superb blog, MindShift, for a treasure trove of wisdom on children and social media, including today’s post here.

Texting While Birthing: Three Arguments For Social Media In The Delivery Room

There's an upside to social media during childbirth

Author and local birth expert Tina Cassidy wrote a compelling piece in New York Magazine this week about the use of social media during childbirth. The issue has been in the news lately after a Maryland hospital banned photographs during birth (they said it was too distracting for providers, but I’m guessing the potential threat of legal action was a major factor as well).

I asked Tina why she thinks that texts, flip cameras and YouTube videos are critical in the labor and delivery room. Here are her top three reasons, edited and condensed.

1. Get Over The “Ick” Factor And Connect

Most people have this knee-jerk reaction to social media during birth. “It’s ‘ick,’ keep it to yourself.” But for those on the receiving end of the texts and emailed pictures — grandparents, friends, neighbors — they want to know the details of your birth, how do you feel, who does the baby look like, etc. “It’s such an important time for mothers to connect,” Tina said. “I understand the compulsion to share. When people run a marathon, they want to post it on Facebook.” Why should birth be any different?

2. Hospitals Are Lonely, Strangers Abound

Keep in mind, it’s only in the last 100 years or so that women have been giving birth in hospitals, surrounded by strangers. Previously, birth was a big social affair and women were surrounded by other women, their mothers, sisters, family. Now, your spouse might be there, and maybe a hired doula. Otherwise it’s hospital staff and medical students. “It’s a long time to be isolated and not communicate,” Tina says. Social media fills that gap: you can once again be surrounded by your people. “I have no scientific proof of this,” she says. “But I’d love to see an experiment, because I suspect that the longer the labor, the more things drag out, the more you feel the need to communicate. ” Indeed, new research suggests the experience of social networking is comparable to falling in love, exactly what giving birth is all about.

3. Not Your Grandmother’s C-Section

As far as birth goes, we are all products of our culture and history (that’s the subject of her last book Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born). Birth customs and practices are largely generational — just remember how Betty Draper gave birth to her third child on Mad Men. (If you didn’t see it, think enema, shaved pubic-hair and a hefty dose of Demerol). Or, as Tina points out: “My grandmother wasn’t even conscious for the birth of her kids — this [social media phenomenon] brings consciousness to a whole new level to be able to text during your C-section.” An aside: the subject of her forthcoming book is a close-up look at Jackie Kennedy in 1975. Jackie, by the way, had four C-sections, none tweeted.

But as far as social media oversharing goes, Tina (who gave birth to her second child in a bathtub at home, with no videos) warns of one drawback: You don’t want to be so busy reaching out on social media during birth that you miss the sweet, awe-inspiring moment, which, by the way, can never, ever be captured on tape or text.

Daily Rounds: Health Care Waste; Sleepless Children Risk Obesity; Doctor-Patient Failure to Communicate; Social Media in Medicine

Health Care Wastefulness Is Detailed in Studies – NYTimes.com More than a quarter of acute-care medical visits are to the ER, not primary care, study finds. Also, an estimate of the cost of “defensive medicine:” $45 billion.  (The New York Times)

In Young Kids, Lack Of Sleep Linked To Obesity Later – NPR Those who sleep less than 10 hours a night are almost twice as likely to gain too much weight, and naps don’t help, researcher says. (NPR)

Patients overestimate benefit of heart stents, study says – Boston.com What Bay State Medical Center doctors thought they told patients — “This will ease your chest pain” — and what patients thought they heard — “This will prevent heart attacks.” (Boston Globe)

amednews: Social media pose ethical unknowns for doctors – American Medical News What if your patient wants to friend you on Facebook? What if you want to report your whereabouts on FourSquare? The AMA suggests some guidelines. (ama-assn.org)