The new Face(book) of medicine

Medical professionals, social media and advice giving during COVID-19


  • Staci Defibaugh Old Dominion University
  • Suzanne M Gut Old Dominion University
  • Elizabeth E Weems Old Dominion University



advice, humor, solidarity, social networking sites, pandemic, education


Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many medical providers (MPs) turned to social media platforms as an opportunity to interact with colleagues and provide education to patients. When the pandemic flooded social network services (SNSs), such as Facebook, with a great deal of information, both accurate and dubious, MPs continued using SNSs to share information and updates about the infodemic (as defined by the World Health Organization). This study explores how MPs engaged in education and advice giving on
Facebook during the early months of the pandemic. For this study, a total of 572 Facebook posts about COVID-19 were collected from the Facebook pages of three medical doctors between 1 January and 15 July, 2020. A total of 79 posts were analyzed, focusing on how advice was discursively constructed. The strategies analyzed included creating a light-hearted tone through moments of levity and making advice more indirect through pronoun shifts and framing devices. We argue that medical providers likely soften the force of advice because of the public/professional confluence that exists on Facebook; this approach may also make the advice more palatable. This study highlights possible implications for current MPs and aid in their overall training.

Author Biographies

  • Staci Defibaugh, Old Dominion University

    Staci Defibaugh earned her PhD in 2015 from the University of Illinois. She is currently an Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics, specializing in discourse analysis. Her research focuses on medical discourse across various settings and platforms including clinic consultations between nurse practitioners and patients, direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertisements and social media platform

  • Suzanne M Gut, Old Dominion University

    Suzanne M. Gut is a PhD candidate in the English Department at Old Dominion University. Her research interest focuses on how identity influences computer-mediated communication and linguistic activities, particularly in academic settings.

  • Elizabeth E Weems, Old Dominion University

    Elizabeth E. Weems is a PhD candidate at Old Dominion University. Her research interests include First Year Writing (FYW), especially Basic Writing, and the use of mindfulness practices to enact justice in the FYW classroom, as well as discourse in emails and social media posts.


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How to Cite

Defibaugh, S., Gut, S. M., & Weems, E. E. (2022). The new Face(book) of medicine: Medical professionals, social media and advice giving during COVID-19. Communication and Medicine, 18(1), 66–77.