Social media: the good, the bad and the ugly (2022)

A few years ago, the last thing you'd probably expect to find in a dental magazine would have been an article about social media.

The world has changed greatly since many of us began our practising careers. Whether we like it or not; we are now truly in a digital age where social media plays a huge part in how we now communicate both with patients and fellow colleagues. With the ease of uploading images and video's straight from our smart phones Social Media has never been so accessible.

What is social media?

You may think this is pretty obvious, who doesn't know what Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin are?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, social media is defined as 'websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.'

But do we really know what these platforms were created for and are we using them correctly? Or are these platforms so engrained in us now that we as individuals customise the way in which we use them and create derivatives that may actually be causing more harm than good?

Uses in dentistry

There are so many reasons why dentists would choose to use social media platforms.

Practices will advertise any promotions they may have, entice patients to register, encourage and motivate patients to follow recommended dental advice and also advertise cosmetic dental treatments or facial aesthetics.

A dentist may set up a personal page highlighting their own particular work, before and afters, video testimonials, patient reviews. Associates often are keen to build their own brand, hence patients now can potentially find dentists online just from scrolling through a profile.

For an associate like myself it is a huge advantage to be able to attract patients through their own platforms, this can enable more freedom for associates. Practice owners are now often looking specifically for associates who are 'social media aware' as it is less of a burden on owners to market and advertise their clinics using traditional, often expensive, methods.

There are many private dental groups on Facebook which offer an area for candid discussion about cases, treatment planning, failures and success stories, questions about faulty equipment, job opportunities etc. On these forums dentists may ask questions about treatments, seek advice, praise each other and sometimes even criticise.

Social media: the good, the bad and the ugly (1)

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(Video) Social Media - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly | ft. Nehemiah Damien & Joshua Andrews

The good

Dentistry is an artistic profession. With the boom of cosmetic and aesthetic dentistry in the UK in recent years the standards have never been higher. A dentist needs to be able to set themselves apart from other associates when applying for jobs and also attracting clients. With the increased use of SLR photography, social media is the perfect way to display a portfolio of work in an easy to navigate media. This is both helpful for prospective employers and patients. Since setting up my Instagram page (@teeth_by_janine) I have found that I have been able to connect with a wider pool of colleagues worldwide, it can be hugely beneficial to see different workflows and be inspired by other clinicians who are producing incredibly natural restorations.

Dentistry can be a lonely profession, often working in the same room day after day with the same nurse and little interaction with other colleagues. It is refreshing to see the work of others and see how high the standards are worldwide. It can be easy with little interaction in the wider dental field to get stuck in your comfort zone and feel unmotivated in the drill and fill mentality. However, dentistry is so much more than that, with biomimetic, minimally invasive approaches, the aim is to mimic nature and be as realistic as possible. There the challenge lies but the sense of achievement and fulfilment in reproducing nature is incredibly rewarding and it's no wonder a dentist wants to share their work.

I often get messages from younger dentists asking me for advice re: courses or career progression or asking questions about my approach to a case that I have posted. I am always happy to help and actually I think it's important to connect with younger dentists coming through. When I first qualified, I would have relished the chance to have some extra guidance as I often was unsure of how to approach the more complex cases. Being able to see everyday dentistry such as rubber dam placement, quadrant restorations and bonding indirect restorations is invaluable as it can be easy to fall into bad habits and cut corners.

Most businesses now are finding that a social media page is just as valuable as a website. Younger patients in the demographic 18-35 use Instagram and Facebook to often assess whether a restaurant, a gym, or hair salon is for them. It's the same with a dental practice. If you can hit the right balance of clinical work and likeability, then you will find patients begin to connect with you to seek advice regarding booking in for a consultation. Throughout the years dentists have always been portrayed in a negative light in the media, this is changing now, and social media allows patients to see that their dentist is human too rather than the old butcher stereotype. Don't underestimate the power of marketing yourself on social media.

In my case I love the work that I am able to offer my patients and actually I find when explaining a type of treatment to a patient often referring them to my page or showing them before and after photos really helps them understand the procedure before they commit to extensive cosmetic treatment. It helps them feel more confident and I think they see the pride I take in my work which is most definitely reassuring for them.

The bad

Pages displaying seemingly flawless cases can often be misleading. With the best will in the world a case may fail for a multitude of reasons despite your best efforts and meticulous planning. We have to remember, once the patient is out of the surgery, we lose control. We rely on them to take on board the advice they have been given in terms of looking after the work, but do they always comply? The answer is no.

Social media probably isn't the most common place where dentists will post failures, though there are some dentists who are all too happy to show the reality of how a case may not always have the expected longevity. It is only through failure that we can learn and improve.

For some seeing post after post of beautifully bonded anterior teeth or a set of full veneers may feel disheartening as for the majority of dentists out there this type of cosmetic work is not a reality. When we see our day list consisting of full clearances, denture fits, swellings and fillings it can be easy to feel some resentment. You must remind yourself that we are all colleagues and we should wholeheartedly support each other - it is futile being reproachful even if you disagree with treatment choices. If you want to do more cosmetic treatment, then it is down to you to make the necessary changes in order to facilitate this.

One of the first things I was told in my first year of university was two dentists will never agree with each other, but they will always agree that the third dentist is wrong. It is worth remembering that. We are all doing our best and we should remember that everyone has to start somewhere. When a colleague uploads a clinical photograph, it should be noted that it does take a level of bravery to display work so publicly and open ourselves up to criticism. There is a fine line between being genuinely inquisitive or deliberately negative and condescending.

(Video) Social Media: The good, the bad, and the ugly

For some, social media is all about validation. The LIKE button is now standardised on all of the three major platforms. When we upload a post we want to see likes and comments from colleagues and potential patients. The more notifications the better, yet when a post doesn't do well, we are left feeling a little dejected, or worried that maybe there's something wrong with the post. You might just get the feeling, it's not good enough.

Social media is often in the press for its link with cyber bullying and trolling. It is sad to say that this does exist within our profession. Facebook hosts several closed groups with administrators who regulate that all members are registrants; some are well managed but sadly not all. There have been incidents where threads have become overly toxic, sexist and hateful with a bullish nature from colleagues who will stop at no cost to get their opinion across.

It seems we are more concerned with filtering our photographs rather than our opinions. There is nothing wrong with a polite discussion keeping comments respectful but when a colleague behind a keyboard loses control and crosses the line, they need to remember that social media is not a safe zone for sexism, misogyny, racism or hateful comments. These comments can bring the profession into disrepute and there have been GDC cases where screenshots from forums have been sent and a dentist called up to answer for unacceptable comments.

The ugly

There is often a trend on closed forums where a post will lead to explosive discussions often with clinicians joining forces to express a strong opposition to another colleague's post. If these forums are not regulated by administrators, then it may appear that trolling/hate comments are condoned. Freedom of speech does not mean that ethics and professionalism are disregarded as per GDC guidelines. It may be time to have a refresh on the professionalism guidelines if you are unsure. Administrators of these groups have a duty to regulate that the members are using the group in a positive way in order ensure that forums are education, informative and remain a positive community.

Perhaps it's the isolation of the job or differing mentalities of what dentistry should be that cause some of the disputes we hear about. It may be a tough pill to swallow seeing the enthusiasm and genuine passion that dentists have nowadays - better materials, better photography - more knowledge means the level of dentistry that is provided has surpassed previous standards. It's not too late to get motivated and join in. Go on courses, watch videos online, learn new skills and methods, you might surprise yourself.

It's okay to disagree but it's important to stick to the point. There is no need to be rude to a fellow colleague or try and deliberately prove each other wrong.

Social media is here to stay. Its positives far outweigh the negatives. But we as a profession need to be more supportive of each other and that's where the improvement is needed. It's important to remember before you type, there is another person at the end of the screen. Think about how your comments may affect them. Don't get too comfortable, social media is not a safe place to demonstrate strong opinions that may bring the profession into disrepute. It should be noted during the current climate of COVID-19 there is understandably a huge amount of panic and worry worldwide. Each profession/work sector has different concerns, but social media reports are not always to be trusted. Beware of fake news and unsubstantiated reports which are only adding to the pandemonium and hysteria. The truth is, no one really knows what is happening from one day to the next and we are to be guided by the government meanwhile. It does take trust and it will take time, patience is prudent here whilst we take slow steps to normality.

Some top tips for social media

  • Show support and keep things positive

  • Stay united as a profession

  • Engage in discussions with colleagues in a professional and dignified manner

    (Video) SOCIAL MEDIA | The Good, The Bad and The Ugly | PSYCHOLOGY

  • Don't bring the profession into disrepute with sexist/racist/misogynistic/overtly rude comments

  • Remember social media is just a snap shot of a colleague's clinical activity; try not to take it so seriously. If you don't like something, rather than expressing it online just keep scrolling past it

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

  1. Bilton Dental Clinic, 322 Bilton Road, CV22 7LU, Rugby, UK

    Janine Sohota

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Janine Sohota.

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Social media: the good, the bad and the ugly (2)

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Sohota, J. Social media: the good, the bad and the ugly. BDJ In Pract 33, 18–19 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41404-020-0391-y

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Further reading

FAQs

What are the ugly side of social media? ›

The more time spent on social media can lead to cyberbullying, social anxiety, depression, and exposure to content that is not age appropriate. Social Media is addicting.

Why social media is good or bad? ›

The negative aspects of social media

However, multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts. Social media may promote negative experiences such as: Inadequacy about your life or appearance.

What are 5 negative effects of social media? ›

Social media harms

However, social media use can also negatively affect teens, distracting them, disrupting their sleep, and exposing them to bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic views of other people's lives and peer pressure. The risks might be related to how much social media teens use.

Why social media is toxic? ›

Social media portrays a false sense of reality that detriments the mental health of heavy users. It has a record-breaking influence on the world, and is glamorized by users and influencers but has negative effects on mental health that can even turn fatal.

How does social media affect society? ›

Social Media is relatively a newer technology, hence, it is a little difficult to establish its long-term good and bad consequences. However, multiple researchers have concluded a strong relationship between heavy use of social media platforms with an increase in risk of depression, self-harm, anxiety, and loneliness.

Is social media Right or wrong? ›

Many studies have shown that the extensive use of social media can actually cause addiction to the users. Throughout their day, they feel to post something on their pages or check others posts as it has become an important part of our life.

Is social media good for society? ›

The truth is that social media can also be beneficial for society. It can help individuals connect and deepen their relationships. Social media also encourages students to learn and grow. And it can empower businesses to build their audiences and boost their bottom line.

How social media is positive? ›

In times of loneliness, stress and anxiety, social media can act as a powerful tool to bring people together to support and lift each other up when they need it most.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of social media? ›

Top 10 Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media
Pros of Social MediaCons of Social Media
People Can Connect Through Social MediaReduces Face-to-face Communication Skills
Good Source of Up-to-Date InformationFake News
Social Media Is Beneficial to EducationPeople's Addiction to Social Media
7 more rows

Is social media good or bad for students? ›

Daily overuse of media and technology has a negative effect on the health of all children, preteens and teenagers by making them more prone to anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders, as well as by making them more susceptible to future health problems.

How does social media affect communication? ›

Unfiltered Interactions

Social media and internet interactions offer a veil between the person sending and the person receiving the message. These interactions are no longer face to face, and this can lead to some unfiltered conversations as people feel they can say anything with no repercussions.

Should I quit social media? ›

Key Takeaways. Research shows that social media can negatively impact your health by increasing feelings of depression, anxiety, and even insomnia. If you find that your relationship with social media is hurting you, you can try going on a “digital detox,” or quitting social media for some time.

Does social media do more harm than good? ›

Studies have shown that increased use of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok is leading to depression, anxiety, and loneliness. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only pushed more people to the platforms but has also caused people to spend unusual amounts of time cruising their feeds.

How social media changed our life? ›

Social media has made it possible to get an inside perspective with very little effort. In addition to getting a birds-eye view of other places, the live feed feature of social media has also broken down barriers and made it possible to virtually attend events around the globe.

How does social media affect our daily lives? ›

Multiple studies have shown that unlimited use of social media causes stress, bad moods and negative mental health. Many people wake up in the morning and immediately check their Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter.

How social media controls our lives? ›

Studies show that social media affects teenagers dramatically. Girls are more likely to compare themselves to others. Scrolling through their feeds adds more pressure to them seeing a small part of somebody's life and seeing how great it is. Social media is like a mask for your real self.

What are the 10 benefits of social media? ›

Top 10 Benefits of Social Media in the Digital Era
  • Generate Online Traffic.
  • Staying Alive.
  • Better Conversion Rates.
  • Increasing Brand Loyalty.
  • Partnering up with Influencers.
  • Assessing the Competition.
Jun 16, 2020

Is media good or bad? ›

There is no definitive answer to whether mass media is "good" or "bad". Research has shown that it can have both positive and negative effects, and often these effects are dependent on how the media is being used and consumed.

What are 5 positives of social media? ›

Here are five benefits of using social media:
  • Build relationships. Social media is not just about brands connecting with their customers. ...
  • Share your expertise. Social media gives you an opportunity to talk about what you know and what you want to be known for. ...
  • Increase your visibility. ...
  • Educate yourself. ...
  • Connect anytime.
Apr 22, 2014

How can social media change positive? ›

How to Use Social Media For Positive Change
  1. Take advantage of interactive activism opportunities in online communities.
  2. Make sure your activism is accessible and inclusive.
  3. Remember that small steps are critical to getting the work done.
  4. Share the work that other activists are doing.

What is the positive side of social media? ›

Social media may provide individuals with a platform that overcomes barriers of distance and time, allowing them to connect and reconnect with others and thereby expand and strengthen their in-person networks and interactions. Indeed, there is some empirical evidence supporting this.

What is social media according to you? ›

What is Social Media? Social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. The Office of Communications and Marketing manages the main Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube accounts.

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