Is social media killing our image?

It seems that social media like Instagram and Facebook are the quickest ways for a Physiotherapist to build reputation these days.

It’s not uncommon to find Physios who have only been in the game for 5 or 10 years to have upwards of 20000 followers because of their memes on ACLs.

Meanwhile our best researchers with decades of expertise and cred struggle to be heard with their social media effort straight out of the 1980s.

The current social media landscape for Physiotherapists

Unfortunately the nature of social media means that you can build your follower count faster by being controversial or making big claims.

This means that our most famous Physios on social media, the ones that are carrying the image of Physiotherapy to the masses, are the ones that frequently drop the F-bomb and the ones that claim to have “the three greatest exercises to cure any lower back pain“.

But just have a think about what that does for the public’s image of Physiotherapy.

We don’t see surgeons taking to social media proclaiming “All those surgeons out there still using the xyz technique are F.ing dinosaurs and losers!” – imagine how your opinion of surgeons generally would change.

Then we’ve got the proliferation of “the three greatest exercises…“, “the guaranteed way to fix…” and “your pain is definitely because of this diagnosis“.

Now I get the nature of clickbait, and having a headline that baits the reader into clicking or liking the content.

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But it’s a double-edged sword, and it’s already starting to swing the other way!

Are Physiotherapists on social media harming the profession?

If qualified practitioners can provide “guaranteed” solutions via social media without needing to assess the reader, why couldn’t a computer program do the same and save the health insurers millions of dollars?

Health insurers in USA have already been using AI to optimise various non-clinical processes for clients.

We also have clinical AI programs that are doing a better job of providing clinical services than humans (note that the link is from 2019 and AI has moved a loooong way since then).

If we continue to portray this image of offering fixes without assessment, or just providing generic solutions to all problems, we’re going to make it very hard to justify our existence to the general public and insurers.

How can we say, in a public forum like Facebook or Instagram, that “these exercises can fix lower back pain”, and on the other hand claim that we need to assess and treat individual cases?

That contrast makes the profession look like a bunch of snake oil salespeople and dilutes the reputation that we’ve been building for the past eight decades.

What can be done?

It’d be great if the professionals amongst us could call out other practitioners on social media.

Every time they resort to swearing, crass criticism of fellow practitioners and “cure all” solutions for common problems, just drop a polite comment that their portrayal of the Physio profession isn’t contributing to the reputation and standing that’s taken so long to accrue.

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And if you agree with the sentiments of this post, feel free to share it with your circle.