Remember Your Manners

By Erica Olenski
10:49 AM

At one time or another, you may have heard a book titled, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” by Robert Fulghum. The book is incredibly creative and acquired worldwide popularity for its nuanced way of explaining success in adulthood. Robert takes some of the lessons we learn in Kindergarten, like “share everything” and “hold hands and stick together,” as the foundation for our development as adults. In my opinion, his position makes a whole lot of sense.

Robert’s lessons translate into my professional world. Although I publish content for the social media accounts for HL7 Standards and Corepoint Health, much of my day is spent listening sincerely and understanding the attitudes of the conversations happening around healthcare technology.

As an extension of Roberts thesis, I would like to add that all that I really needed to know (about social media) I learned in Kindergarten. Here are some key lessons I think are particularly valuable for our community:

Say please and thank you. Because social media is limited to written communication, there is tremendous opportunity for a message to be misinterpreted. Taking the time to say please for each request you make and thank you for every action that is followed through shows genuine appreciation. These small gestures can make a big difference in relationships.

Share everything. There is a tremendous amount of information online and social media was created in order to share it. As health IT professionals, we have an ethical obligation to share information that will help advance the objectives of the industry. The act of sharing, especially through social media, can expose new information to parts of your network that may not have otherwise come across the information. This provides a great learning opportunity for that individual, and begins dialogue around a valuable topic.

Listen. I’ve mention this “manner” before, but I stress it again.  Social media is social. It is not a one directional news feed and it is not a radio station. We must understand our audience by listening to them so that we can respond to their questions and answers appropriately.

Don’t gossip. As I was putting this post together, a doctor blogger of 33 Charts, published his own post on the negative impact of unprofessional behavior by professionals and physicians using Twitter. We must remember that gossip has never been successful, and dilutes the value of the respected information from thought leaders. Take a look at @Doctor_V’s post on the topic if you’d like to learn more about why gossip can be harmful to a community.

As the health IT social media community grows, it is important that we have a foundation built on the social etiquette we learned in Kindergarten if we are to ensure our success in the long run. We have a great opportunity ahead of us. We must not throw it away to “bad manners.”


Erica Olenski currently serves as the marketing communications specialist at Corepoint Health and managing editor of HL7 Standards. Erica has focused her research and professional experience in healthcare communications and new media opportunities in the healthcare IT industry. She is a leader in the healthcare IT social media community and additionally moderates the #HITsm (healthcare IT social media) tweet chats on Twitter held weekly from 8-9 p.m. CT.