Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No, Virginia, Facebook Doesn't Cause Cancer.

A friend forwarded this link to me about a doc claiming that Facebook causes cancer and other fatal maladies and asked for my doctorly opinion. See here for the article, and below for my response.

A few reactions:

1. People did not stop face-to-face interaction with the creation of Facebook. Duh. That started with the rise of the TV as primary evening activity in the second half of the 20th century, along with the living situation transition away from closely knit family communities to isolated nuclear families living in suburbia. If anything, I believe Facebook has brought people back together into communities, and is used as much for event planning and bridge to connecting with people in person as it is for online interaction.

2. The studies he cites talk about the lack of hormonal response to emailing, which is entirely different from the interactions one has on facebook. Emailing is unidirectional communication, static and out of real time, and private between sender and recipients. Facebook has IM chat, which, for example, I've been using a ton to connect with my awesome cousins Justin and Andrew who are 10 and 12 yrs old in Houston - they're still at an age where it's sort of awkward to have any meaningful sporadic conversations on the phone or email, and I only see them 1-2 times a year - but now through Facebook chat we're getting to know each other and share ideas, and I feel so much more involved in their lives, which is so great. Furthermore, when one posts status updates or to someone's wall, all of your friends see it, so there's this communal communication that is strange but fantastic and weblike. And finally, I bet if they did studies on the hormones and physiologic changes during an intense flirtatious IM chat between two people, it would be less significant than those with face-to-face contact but way more than just emailing or sitting at home by yourself. Well, depending on what you were doing sitting at home by yourself.

3. There is evidence that people who have poor social connectivity are more likely to get cancer, heart disease, recover worse from illness, etc. And there's corresponding evidence showing that people who have amazing social support and communities live longer with cancer, live longer in general, are healthier, etc. But I would argue that Facebook is a form of social support that's just as important as face-to-face contact given our current culture of moving away from our origin communities -- e.g., having facebook as a way to effortlessly and instantly connect with all of my family and best friends from back East was a crucial factor in helping me get through this past year of medical internship, which was otherwise pretty rough on the social front.

So, in summary: yes of course physical social interaction is incredibly important, in part because we are a cuddling species and regular touch is absolutely essential to our health. But, I disagree that Facebook has anything to do with the decrease in face-to-face social interaction of Americans, and I think rectangle time (as in computer, TV, video games) in general is the culprit - I think Facebook is actually a way to counteract the otherwise detrimental effects of too much socially isolated electronic sport.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Drum beats my heart beats

I heart drumming. I drum heartbeat. Heartbeat is my drumbeat.

Ok, I guess it's not a huge surprise. Congo drums *did* play a large role in the fortuitous convergence of cosmic forces that resulted in my conception. My dad *was* a rock star drummer in the most famous Israeli rock band of the 1970's. I *did* have instrumentalist crushes on the entire percussion section of my high school marching band...

But, despite having an inner rhythm soundtrack for as long as I can remember, despite my insistence on doing the vocal percussion in my college a cappella group, despite my secret desire to be a rock star drummer like my dad, and despite all the band classes, music lessons, and music camps I had access to throughout my childhood, I stuck to playing piano almost exclusively -- and when I dabbled, I only tried on alto sax, clarinet, cello, and guitar. Never a drum, nary a tympani, and absolutely no congos.

Until now.

Upon moving to California, I quickly realized that drum circles were not just an abstract hippie concept that one put on one's Facebook/Jdate profile as a professed interest to exude or attract a drum circle-loving type; drumming (usually in groups, African style) was actually a somewhat regular social occurrence here! So, I decided now would be a great time to get some drum lessons, in part for looking/sounding good at the next party. The other thing I realized in moving to California - in closer proximity to my dad, enabling me to see him and the family half a dozen times this year, way more than I ever had before - was that it was time to embrace and fully express my genetic predisposition to rhythm.

Intern year didn't give me much time to pursue any new hobbies, though, so I was looking forward to graduating to being a second year resident to get things started. Lo and behold, the morning after the residency graduation, my first morning of official second-yeardom...I met a drum teacher! Declaring my intention to learn how to play the drums, I was off and running...first to the music store to buy some sticks and a practice pad. The following week I had my first drum lesson, and it felt like coming back home after a long trip out of town. It felt exhilarating and strangely familiar; it reminded me of looking at yourself in the mirror in a dressing room and seeing yourself looking absolutely magnificent in the new outfit you're trying on, so much so that it already feels like you own it.

According to my drum teacher, I'm the best student he's had all year! Then again, his other student this year was an 8-year-old. But regardless of how good I'm doing, I am totally in love and obsessed with my new hobby. I think my dad is more excited/proud that I'm taking drum lessons than he is that I'm a doctor...but I guess I am too, for the moment. :)

Last weekend my drum teacher helped me buy my first...ever...electronic drumset! It's definitely the coolest gadget I've ever owned, or at least goes into the top three along with the Casio calculator watch I wore in 4th grade (which was the coolest gadget I could own at the time) and my first Iphone. I've been practicing every night, practicing by playing along to my favorite music. SO FUN.

Several years ago, while lying on the floor with 20 other med students in a room at the Omega Institute, experiencing my best (and only) shamanic journey to date, I had the following vision: a hole opened up in the floor next to where I was laying, and I dove into it, tunneling through the ground deep into the earth. After some time I resurfaced with explosive power, shooting up into the sky like a geyser and landing on a giant butterfly that happened to be carrying a few other passengers, family members and friends who were no longer alive. We flew around for a bit on the butterfly, catching up (it was so great to see them), and then they bid me goodbye and disappeared. The butterfly flew me over a large ocean and alit on a rock or mountain formation jutting out from the water - my father emerged from the mist surrounding the rocks and stepped onto the hovering butterfly. I walked up to him, and he said "Give me your hand" - and as I held out my hand he placed into it a small drum with sticks attached (it looked a little like a Christmas ornament). "Here," he said. "Put this into your heart, and its beat will show you the way." Then he too disappeared, the butterfly started to fly me away, and shortly thereafter I woke up from my trancelike shamanic journey state.

As I've told several people who I've talked to these last peri-birthday weeks, I think of my 20s as having been a decade of doing a lot, being ambitious and successful, and having sleep deprivation; I can already see that my 30's will be a new phase of doing the things that give me fullest self-expression, being grounded and clear, and having abundance.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Monday Morning Breakfast Links For You

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but Ben Franklin is kind of like the father of it. Maira Kalman gives a great illustrated exposition about BF and American ingenuity and happiness in life.

Paul McCartney sings his invitation to join him in celebrating Meat-Free Monday!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

And...We're Back!

Huh. Haven't posted to this blog in two years. A lot has happened since then. For example, I became a doctor. And a Californian. And a vegan. And a thirtysomething. And a homeowner. And a Prius owner. Still left-handed, though. Whew.

So yeah, it's been a while, but I think now's a good as time as any to start this thing back up. For one thing, I'm now on PST, so it's near impossible to call any of my favorite people on the East Coast without waking or keeping one of us up. For another thing, I've grown increasingly thoughtful (read: outspoken) in my old age, so I've got lots to say and this is one of those "appropriate" places to soapbox. Thirdly...well, I miss writing and reflecting my semi-private thoughts/experiences in a semi-public place. It's one of the joys of the 21st century, and who am I to miss out on that!

First thought: Last night at the awesome dinner with the awesome prospective residency applicants at the awesome family medicine conference (after 2am my normal brain thesaurus sends all but one adjective to sleep. I'll work on that.) I coined a new term with the help of a new friend: blook (rhymes with book): a collection of blog entries published on paper as a single volume with framing intro and conclusion. Spread the word. One of my life goals is to coin a term/phrase that makes it into an actual dictionary. No luck yet with 'sun event' and 'sicks pack', but I haven't given up!

OK, that's it for now. More soon.