Summary: Salmaan Sana discusses the rise of social media at #AMEE 2014 and suggests that in the long run social media can both facilitate new relationships and save you time. Description: My story starts in 2005 when I was a medical student in Amsterdam where a group of us setup the AMEE student task force with more students than had ever been involved during an AMEE conference. This event was life changing, it was the first time that I was exposed to the world of medical education on such a scale, and like many of you, I was hooked.

A couple of years later, I remained active supporting the AMEE staff and at the conference in Glasgow in 2009, we created the Twitter account, the Facebook Fanpage and Linkedin group. And today, almost 5 years later, the impact of the creation of this online world can be clearly seen as it  co-exists next to the “offline” world at the conference.

Currently, AMEE has an active Twitter account, a Facebook fan page and a Linkedin Company Page. At the conference in Milan, AMEE started to become more active on Instagram, uploading our pictures on Flikr, sharing via Google+ and getting our Youtube Channel up and running. We also uploaded pictures onto Facebook albums as well as creating a stori.fy everyday for those that like to look back at the day and reflect on what took place online during the conference.

But why go online? I think I can confidently say, without sounding too “Generation Y” that this world is changing and interconnecting in ways we have not seen before and I believe there is so much potential to be untapped from bringing people together from all over the world via different online mediums. And more than anything I believe it to be the manner of bridging the offline and online world. It is a new way of storytelling and sharing a little of who we are, what our interests are and, perhaps more importantly, what we are passionate about. In the medical education context it can be used to link with people that are like minded/spirited whom you can get to know, learn from and who knows, perhaps collaborate with. I remember when I started, it was 2004, and the platform was ‘friendster’. After that there was ‘Hi5’ and in 2006, for the first time I started a Facebook account and the rest is pretty much history. As Facebook brought me together with all my international contacts, I believe it was Twitter that really showed me how easy it was to link with someone, despite their status or who they were. This form of communication both intrigued and fascinated me as it is, by nature, very open. When you are having a ‘conversation’ with someone, it is open, and others can jump in and feel that they can also relate to the topic in anyway.

A relatively “simple” way to start is by using Linkedin since the majority of professionals have a Linkedin account which they use for CV building, connecting with others after meetings and conferences, and keeping in touch with those that resonate with you. However at the conference itself, the medium that is most buzzing is Twitter. Those that know a little about Twitter know that if you were following the hashtag #AMEE2014, you would find an entire world of people who are communicating with each other, sharing insights, observations, and learnings and even finally get to link with those they have been following for so long. What I’ve noticed is that there is a general deep need for conversation, a need for space(s) where people can chat about the things that keep them busy, they are interested in and also to ask questions openly (even critically) without the feeling that you are ‘disrupting’ a session. Please check www.tagboard.com/amee2014 if you would like to have an idea of what was posted online.

What I find most profound about the online world is that it is not something that everyone needs to get involved in one specified shape or form. It is open to adapt to the needs of an individual and organisation and where possible find a way to allow the more important conversations to take place in a transparent format where everyone can get involved with. You don’t need to start on all the platforms at the same time, just start with one and build from there. Here’s a statement for discussion: once you’ve got the basics of social media understood, it actually saves you time in the work you do… do you believe that?