Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Social Media

Hidden risks your smartphone poses to your career

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: (Published 26 October 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j4896
  1. Abi Rimmer, news reporter, The BMJ
  1. arimmer{at}

Foul mouthed rants and publishing patient information on public platforms are the obvious transgressions for doctors to avoid on social media, but they are not the only ones. Abi Rimmer reveals the more subtle and surprising ways your app habit could be putting your professional reputation in danger—and how to avoid them

“It was all a bit confusing and menacing,” says one core medical trainee of the trouble she found herself in over her use of social media (box 1). She is not the only doctor to have found their professional reputation and career put at risk through their use of these platforms: figures revealed by The BMJ last month show that between 1 January 2015 and 30 June 2017 the General Medical Council closed 28 investigations related to doctors’ use of Facebook, Twitter, or WhatsApp.1

Box 1: Personal view: My “anonymous” social media use at medical school could have damaged my job prospects

“I used to have an anonymous blog where I would write about my time at medical school,” says a core medical trainee from Sussex, who wishes to remain anonymous. “Someone from the medical school found it, and from there they managed to find my [also anonymous] Twitter account. One day I had written a bland tweet about how I hadn’t had a very good day of lectures—and then I got an email from one of my supervisors saying, “Sorry you thought today was a waste of time.”

The trainee tells The BMJ, “It was all a bit confusing and menacing because it was obvious that she must have seen that on my Twitter but she wasn’t following me on Twitter. I had to go to our digital professionalism lead at the university and say that I was being monitored on social media but not publicly.

“We then had to go to one of the heads of year to find out what was …

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