Archive - Jan 2012

January 31st

Meta-Cyberchondria

In American Medical News yesterday, there was an article, Cyberchondria: the one diagnosis patients miss. It refers to a Pew Research Center survey that found eight in ten Americans use the Internet to look for health information. It also referred to research from Microsoft which found that nine in ten respondents reported at least one instance where their search of online health information led them to review content about more serious illnesses.

The article goes on to say, "More often, though, the large number of health websites, some of which are unreliable, mislead patients into thinking they have a medical problem, say health professionals." This is where the article really falls apart. Which health professionals are they referring to? Is this based on peer-reviewed data or simply on the gut feeling of a couple doctors who were friends of the article's author who don't like people doing their own online search?

Even the use of the Microsoft research seems suspect. When attempting to get information about a condition, it seems reasonable to look at conditions that present similar symptoms to be able to properly differentiate between different conditions. This research might lead patients into thinking they have a medical condition or it might simply help the patient be more prepared in discussing the symptoms.

It seems as if, at the root of this is the question of who knows best? Does a patient's knowledge of their own body and symptoms outweigh the years of experience a doctor has gained? Does the information a patient can gain online change this equation, either for the better or for the worse?

How real a problem is Cyberchondria, and how real is 'Meta-Cyberchondria', some sort of fear doctors have about patients coming in and either having false information or more information than the doctors?

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January 30th

The End of a Trip, a Couple Social Media Reflections.

So, I'm home. Over the past several days, my writing and social media activity has been sparse, but hopefully has provided a little insight into what I've been up to. Now, I'm home. I am exhausted. I spent a lot of time driving. I spent a lot of time talking to family members. Now, to catch up on my sleep, catch up on my job, catch up on my online social interactions, and work on a few other ideas.

Random thoughts: At the events around the wedding, people often asked one another how they were connected with the bridal party. There were relatives, co-workers, former classmates, yet there was one fairly common thread that wasn't really mentioned that much. Just about everyone was connected to the bridal party in one way or another, via social media. In fact, I added quite a few new connections in social media as a result of the people I met during the festivities.

How are you connected? What role does social media have in the way we are connected to one another? What do we gain, or lose by establishing more connections?

Choosing what to wear: Pretty much, I wore what my wife, Kim, had selected and packed for me. She probably has a better sense about what to wear than I do. Yet when we, post online, whether it be a blog post, a tweet or a Facebook Status Update, we are essentially choosing what our online persona will be wearing. It is a choice that persists, perhaps longer than pictures in some wedding album.

Just like with my clothing, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about this, and I suspect most of us don't, but there are things that we should know better than saying online, just like there are outfits we should know better than wear to certain events, and so, while I talk about being exhausted, I spare you some of the details.

So, I'm home.

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January 29th

An American Wedding

This is America, the land I was born in, the country I love, with its ever shifting traditions as the current inhabitants meeting newcomers. At our best, we welcome newcomers and add their traditions to our own. At our worst we build walls and battle between different groups.

I write this sitting in a hotel in New Market, Virginia, on my way back from my niece's wedding. New Market was a battlefield in the Civil War. My niece's ancestry includes English and French that fled religious persecution in the 1600s. It includes Irish ancestors fleeing famine and seeking a better life.

This weekend, she married a young man from India that she had met in college. On Saturday, there was a Christian Wedding. I've been to many Christian Weddings and this one was a beautiful as so many others that I've been to.

Today, I experienced something very new and different to me. My new nephew-in-law arrive and a Hindu community center to celebrate his marriage to my niece. We threw rose petals as he arrived, we ate nuts, fruits and nougat. There were many other symbolic events in the ceremony, many which I probably missed.

Yet what was most important to me was seeing what I believe makes America strong, the celebration of people of different backgrounds coming together to love and serve one another.

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January 28th

The Wedding

It has been a long day, and the first wedding ceremony is over. It was around eight in the morning when I headed downstairs at the hotel we are staying at. I set my laptop down on one of the tall tables near the window, and had some decaf coffee, and a hotel breakfast. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad. People started showing up to get henna designs drawn on their hands and I chatted with various distant relatives.

Fiona got up when I did and took a shower. She then came downstairs to have a little breakfast and see what was going on. She wasn't scheduled to get her hands done until ten, but she was just too excited and couldn't wait. The schedule was a little out of whack, and so she managed to get henna designs on her hands a little a head of time.

Other family members came and went, getting henna designs or simply gathering to chat. My sister had printed out various parts of our family history which I helped organize and went over with my mother. At the same time, I've been gathering new tidbits here and there about the family.

The weather was very pleasant and Kim and I found some time to sit outside and enjoy the warm sunshine while getting a few moments of peace away from the hustle and bustle.

As the morning progressed, cookies were brought out, more women had their hands decorated with henna and moved around with their hands outstretched waiting for the henna to dry. There were some creative maneuvers to eat cookies or drink wine without using hands. Other relatives arrived and more stories and family history was shared.

The wedding was scheduled for three and was fairly close. Yet considering how slowly my mother moves, we left extra time to be able to get to the church. We were there with plenty of time and took the opportunity to talk with others there.

The wedding was in a large Catholic church, which made the turnout seem sparse. It was a fairly traditional service which was beautiful. Afterwards, we hung around as pictures were taken and then headed off to the country club for the reception. At times, I sent various pictures to Facebook or Twitter of the event and friends and relatives who couldn't make it participated online.

Again, the wedding had all the traditional trappings, from announcing the newly married couple to the tossing of the bouquet and the garter. The food was a little different with more indian flavors added and the only meat being chicken.

We were tired and left early, after working out for Fiona to get a ride home with a new friend, a cousin-in-law about her age. They were having a great time on the dance floor as the rest of us headed back to the hotel.

Tomorrow will be another long day, with a Hindu service in the morning, a brunch, and then a long drive back to Connecticut.

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January 27th

Family Book

Today, I spent hours in a car heading from Pennsylvania to North Carolina with members of my family as we all converge for my niece's wedding. I've spent a bit of time studying the family history and it provided some great opportunities for discussion.

My mother spoke about relatives, childhood neighbors, and the history of houses. She wondered who was still around and what stories they could tell. She reflected about how much more mobile people are these days and how people don't have the same sense of community they did when she was young.

Of course, living in the world of social media, I thought about the communities that I'm part of. I thought about how my mobility and online connections have led me to have friends around the world.

Yet so much of the online connections are about the here and now. The sense of history is missing, and no I don't think Facebook Timelines does a lot to address it.

I have spent time exploring genealogy online. I haven't used any of the paid sites, but I don't find the sense of close knit community that I do in some of my Facebook communities. Is there the possibility to find or establish some sort of online community, or at least repository of stories about the small family farms clustered along side the Connecticut River, extended families on the edge of the White Mountains, or workers in some old New England mills? Is there the possibility of some sort of Family Book?

In the end, perhaps, it all comes down to the stories. The stories we share on Facebook, the stories we share during long car rides. Some of the stories get saved. Others get lost.

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