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February 26. 2014 8:28PM

Dartmouth researchers study success of doctor jokes on Facebook

LEBANON — A study of Facebook comments and social interaction struck Dartmouth researchers’ funny bones, so they decided to study jokes about doctors posted on Facebook.

Matthew Davis, of the Dartmouth Institute of Health Policy & Clinical Practice, and his fellow researchers had permission from more than 33,000 Facebook users to monitor comments, Davis said Tuesday, with the intent of studying how patients facing a surgery seek and receive support from friends on Facebook.

But after observing numerous jokes about doctors, the researchers decided to initiate another study.

A medical examination can make people feel awkward, a medical crisis can create fear, Davis said. It’s natural for patients to turn to humor for relief from these feelings.

“People that are facing medical issues are facing a lot of different emotions,” Davis said. “It’s probably a pretty healthy way that people deal with stress.”

The study is published in the February edition of the Journal of Medical Internet Research and is one of the first studies of social networking site conversations pertaining to health and medicine.

In the study Davis and his colleagues examined the prevalence and success of doctor jokes posted on Facebook.

Davis and colleagues studied the characteristics of 156 unique doctor jokes that were associated with getting an “electronic laugh,” such as a LOL or ROTFL, from the social network and the number of Facebook “likes” jokes received.

Jokes in which the doctor or the health care system was the butt of the joke tended to be more successful, although the association was not statistically significant, according to the study.

Some jokes were cheesy, some in long story form.

“Ironically, the joke in the study that received the greatest number of Facebook likes was a “doctor, lawyer, priest joke” in which the lawyer was the butt of the joke,” according to the Institute.

In the study, “Someone was posting from their hospital bed and their network (of Facebook friends) was offering jokes to try to lighten the mood,” Davis said, additionally, “There were jokes in there that I think spoke to the frustrations with the health care system.”

Davis said while the study was done for fun it also paves the way for more serious studies using social networking sites like Facebook.

mpierce@newstote.com


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