Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The power of color: why are social media logos blue?

I gave a presentation recently at my new residency program about social media, and now I'm revamping it for a local physician group.  As I was tweaking my presentation, I began to realize that the images I had downloaded all featured blue.

Facebook.  Twitter.  LinkedIn.  Blogger.  Myspace.  Digg.

I'd wager that this similarity is no coincidence.  After all, marketers use color every day to subconsciously influence our perceptions of their brands.

My curiosity grew, and I started reading about the power of the color blue.  Here's what I learned:
"Blue appears to be a universally likable color." (1) 
"Blue invokes feelings of authority, expertise, eliteness, calmness and  trust....Blue is the colour of corporate America." (2) 
"Dark blue: trust, dignity, intelligence, authority.   Bright blue:  cleanliness, strength, dependability, coolness.   Light (sky) blue:  peace, serenity, ethereal, spiritual, infinity." (3) 
"Blue – Trust, security, peace, open, stability." (4)
Police and military dress uniforms are blue. (5)  Bank of America, Best Buy, Pepsi, Wal-Mart, ING, Ford, Merrill Lynch, Staples (6) - the more I look, the more blue I see.

I wonder if these social media sites settled on blue logos from the get-go, to push a message of authority and dependability even while they were so new?  Or, maybe, one of the first sites chose blue, and it somehow evolved into the universal social media color?  

Regardless of whether your organization wants to have a social media presence, it does; it's up to you who's in charge of it.  Similarly, your website's colors will influence your audience, and it's up to you whether you're in charge of that effect.

When I was setting up this blog, I settled on a neutral color scheme because I wanted my readers' focus on the text.  I never gave color any more thought.  When asked about how to start a blog, my responses never related to color and design.  I see the error of that omission now.

My updated advice to anyone designing a web space is to not neglect the visual appearance of your blog.  At the same time, a snazzy color scheme won't make up for a dearth of content, which is where the bulk of a blogger's energy should go in the long run.  For now, I'm sticking with my black and white.

But, you never know when I might succumb to the blues...

(1) Thanks, Quora:  http://www.quora.com/Why-are-most-social-networking-sites-blue
(2) http://www.tuned-in.com/ColorSpeaks/Blue.aspx
(3) http://www.colormatters.com/blue
(4) http://www.smallfuel.com/blog/entry/marketing-by-color-dont-try-to-sell-blue-potatoes
(5) http://www.evancarmichael.com/Small-Business-Consulting/965/Color-my-World--How-to-Use-Color-Effectively-in-your-Marketing.html
(6) http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/01/28/colors-in-corporate-branding-and-design/
Interesting round-up of all of the colors: http://www.precisionintermedia.com/color.html

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Stack

Medical folk, you know what I'm referring to: that ever-growing stack of journals that we'll all sit down and carefully read through "someday."

My stack of journals is about 3 inches high at this point.  When I am in the groove of efficiency, I take the time to flip through each journal when it arrives, tear out any articles that look interesting, and recycle the rest.  When the deluge of patient care and teaching and research and meetings overtakes me, the journals pile up unopened.

The Stack taunts me for my negligence.  The Stack generates guilt.  The Stack hisses "you can't keep up, you'll never keep up."

The Stack is right.  I can't keep up.  None of us can.  The medical literature machine cranks out hundreds of articles a week.  I do not have the hundreds of hours it would take to read even a fraction of them.  Accepting those facts is part of being a 21st century physician.  I don't want to abandon my effort to stay up-to-date with the literature, but I need a new strategy.  Piles of journals that only accumulate dust aren't helping anyone.

I don't mean to suggest that journals are unnecessary - far from it.  I just need a different way to digest them.  I do a decent job of keeping up with Twitter, RSS feeds, and e-mail "breaking news" alerts.   I also use DynaMed and other evidence-based tools on a daily basis.

While I respect those who like reading a paper journal, this electronic effort is working much better for me.  I'm usually one of the first of my colleagues to know about a new study or a practice change recommendation, and I'm adept at quickly answering point-of-care questions using my electronic tools.

So, I'm done.  Off go those unread journals to the recycle bin, and back I go to iGoogle, Twitter, InfoPOEMs, and the blogosphere.

I hereby declare myself free from The Stack.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Family Medicine Book Reviews - Coming Soon!

Sharing our stories can validate our frustrations, release pent-up emotion, and connect us to our colleagues.  At my old program, the residents had humanities sessions where they wrote 55-word stories,* composed their own personal medical oath, and even spoke with patient guests about the patient experience.

Most major medical journals now include a place in each edition for a narrative medicine piece; even JAMA has poetry and "A Piece of My Mind," both usually penned by docs, every other week.

At the FMEC Board meeting last month, our CEO Larry Bauer brought a huge stack of books written by family docs. (When I say "book," I am not referring to textbooks, but to other nonfiction, though I think there might be a novel or two in there as well.)  He remarked that many of these family physician authors released their titles with little fanfare from their Family Medicine colleagues or organizations.

I myself had no idea how many books family docs have written over the years.  As one of the leaders of our humanities curriculum at my old program, I would certainly have included some of these writings if I had only known about them.

I vowed to spread the word about these books, so I'm going to be presenting brief reviews of them over the next several months.  Perhaps you might find at least a couple of them worthy of a read for personal edification and/or curricular enrichment.

It's so easy, in this job, for empathy to erode under the weight of paperwork and productivity demands, not to mention that people are not always at their best when ill.  A brief period of time engaging in medical humanities - be it reading, journaling, or just talking - can be a gentle reminder of why we signed up for this calling.

So please stay tuned for these upcoming book reviews, which will be scattered in amongst my other usual musings.

acronym call-out:
FMEC = Family Medicine Education Consortium www.fmec.net
JAMA = Journal of the American Medical Association.  One of the, if not the, medical journal "biggies."

Thursday, March 8, 2012


My hairstylist here in my new city is very nice, but she's quieter than the vivacious and caring chatterbox that I left behind in my old city.  I feared that I'd never "click" with her; at every appointment, I found myself wishing I was back in my old city with my old stylist.

At my most recent appointment, I was able to pause in my melancholy thoughts long enough to realize that she's one cool chick.  I had been letting my connections to the past keep me from making a connection to the present.

I am stuck in the past, I realized, stuck grieving for the people and places I left behind when I moved here last fall.  I miss my old work colleagues, and I wonder how my patients are doing.  I miss the local restaurants that can't be duplicated here.  I miss knowing everyone in my old hospital, knowing every secret shortcut, knowing who could get what done for me fast.  I miss my cozy shoebox of an office that barely fit a desk and a small filing cabinet.

I'm tired of getting lost in the shiny behemoth of a hospital that I round in.  I haven't met many of the consultants yet, and rounding one week in six is not introducing me to the nurses and staff very quickly.  My new office space is larger than the one I left, with plenty of space for books and files and a big desk; the extra square footage, though, just makes me feel lost.

I'm beginning to worry that this grief is going on too long, that I am mentally there more than here.  Intellectually, I know that those connections in my old city and workplace took years to forge, and I know that much of that is just yet to develop here.  Don't get me wrong: I like much of what I see here.  It's just that the past is so seductively comfortable.

But the past is the past, and by mentally living there, I'm losing out on opportunities here.  I've got to figure out exactly what happened in the stylist's chair last week and keep letting it happen.

It's time to get unstuck.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Paronychia aftermath

Last month, I had a paronychia* in my left index finger's cuticle.  Thankfully, it never localized into a pus collection, so I was able to successfully treat it with just warm water soaks.

The new part of my nail is now growing out scarred and yellowed.   The tip of my finger was pretty swollen with this infection, so the nail also was forced to grow over the swelling, resulting in a sizable curve in the middle (it looks "clubbed," for you medical folk).  It is thin and weak, and the edges keep tearing on surfaces a normal nail should be impervious to - the edge of a mitten, the corner of a towel, the edge of a latex glove.

I don't consider myself a particularly appearance-obsessed person, but this unsightly, frayed nail bothers me.  I've come to realize that I use this finger quite frequently: I'll tap at papers with test results, computer screens with interesting information, my iPad to open a medical app.  I'm so self-conscious about this ugly nail that I am constantly checking to see if my patients and learners are looking at the nail instead of the information it's directing them to.

I don't want the nail to distract them, and, I have to admit, I don't want the nail to falsely suggest that I'm unhygienic or diseased in some way.  I don't like to paint my nails (too high maintenance for me), but I've considered it only to worry that the chemicals in the polish will weaken the nail further.  I tried covering it with a band-aid, but the medical people out there know how annoying band-aids are when you're washing your hands fifty times a day.

My rational self reminds me that it's unlikely anyone is paying much attention to the nail; it hasn't garnered one comment yet.  It does serve as yet another reminder that doctors are prone to the same annoyances of minor illness as every one else.  Like everyone else who's ever had a paronychia, too, I will just have to wait for a new nail to grow in.

Ah, yet another opportunity to cultivate patience.  *sigh*

* for non-medical readers: a paronychia is a cuticle infection.  Here's some cool (or gross, depending on your point of view) pics: