This post was written more than four years ago. The world changes fast, and the information, conclusions, or attributions may or may not still be accurate. Check the sources and links, and email me if you have any questions.

Jay Parkinson recently posted ‘Why health and social media don’t mix’ — respectfully, I think it’s short-sighted and I wholly disagree.

Dr. Parkinson essentially makes the argument that social media is the wrong tool, that the “social web is great at spreading meaningless drivel,” and that “[Young, active people] don’t need a tool, like social media, to solve a problem they don’t have … this group is tiny because it’s just data geeks who are obsessed with data.”

Your health is a lot more than what’s represented in your electronic medical record. While Dr. Parkinson says young, active people enjoy “one-off transactional relationship[s] with health and healthcare,” is that the way the system should work?

In a system of one-off transactional relationships, your health is your diagnoses, medications, vaccinations, and lab values — purely clinical data. But the reality is that your health is impacted by your friends and family, internal motivations, lifestyle, the community in which you live in, your daily routines and personality.

The average 24-year-old will spend more time on Facebook in the next week than they’ll spend with a physician over the next 20 years.

“Meaningless drivel?” Social data contains your geographical location, consumption patterns, lifestyle interests, travel plans, social interactions and more. And none of that is being shared with a doctor — probably, in a pay for service ecosystem, there’s no incentive. But as we move to a pay-for-outcomes model where physicians are incentivized to ensure positive and long-lasting health outcomes, suddenly that “meaningless drivel” becomes lines connecting dots that are years apart. And when you combine that “meaningless drivel” with device data from pedometers, scales and blood pressure cuffs, we can start to analyze behaviors and triggers and disease management becomes disease prevention.

We’d be negligent as a society if we ignored powerful uses of data like social and device information.