Teetering on the cusp of the Millennial and Gen Z generations, I am Twitter’s target audience. Originally, I joined Twitter to connect with others during NSGC’s virtual conference. A mentor of mine created a Twitter thread for us jobseekers to network with genetic counselors in a particular region or specialty; this allowed me to connect with future colleagues across the country. Additionally, Twitter connected me to a case conference for prospective genetic counseling students, where I presented interesting cases I’ve experienced as a new pediatric genetic counselor. Over the past two years, social media (especially Twitter), has become a collaborative environment to connect with those who share a singular passion: genetic counseling.
Even with all its glitter and glory, Twitter can have its moments of darkness. In an age defined by instant gratification, we sometimes speak before having a full understanding of our subject matter. It feels as though we can be so hyper-focused on our own reaction, we don’t consider the unintentional impact of our response to the individual on the receiving end. Tweets are like a wildfire, catching and spreading from one individual to another. In many instances, this is for the good. We are highlighting the importance and necessity of diversity, equity, and inclusion, dismantling misinformation related to genetic counseling, and advocating for recognition of the genetic counseling profession. However, there have been instances that made me stop and think about how best to interact on the platform.
I often wonder how beneficial it is for us to put on display the acidity that can bubble up in our profession—especially for our students and prospective students. For example, a business oﬀering paid editing services for genetic counseling applications was called out last year on Twitter, with many individuals unaware the business was run by a current genetic counseling student. The original tweet gained traction and soon became the “hot” topic of the day. For students, graduate school feels like a “bridge year.” We’re not quite professionals, but we’re also not undergraduates. We exist in the in-between, both in our profession and in online spaces. It can be disenchanting to observe a genetic counselor, perhaps one who is a potential supervisor or teacher, tactlessly react to someone else’s tweets. I respect our right to expression on Twitter and other social media platforms, but I want to encourage us to take time to pause before furiously typing away. Consider sending a direct message if you want to open a line of communication, rather than responding publicly in a disparaging manner. And perhaps remember that even in the online sphere, if we are presenting ourselves as genetic counselors, we are impacting how the public, students, and other medical professionals perceive our profession.