Facebook jokes get laughs at doctor’s expense

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Have you heard the one about the doctor? If so, there’s fairly good odds it got a laugh at the doctor’s expense, according to a study of jokes passed around on Facebook.

The study, published in the February issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research, found that doctor jokes are fairly uncommon on Facebook, but of those that have been shared, about 40 percent had the doctor as the butt of the joke.

“The adoption of social networking has resulted in growing interest in using outlets such as Facebook and Twitter in creative ways,” wrote Matthew Davis, MPH, of The Dartmouth Institute of Health Policy & Clinical Practice in Lebanon, N.H., and colleagues. “In addition to serving as an example, this study highlights some of the practical considerations regarding the analysis of data from social networking sites.”

Davis and colleagues included more than 33,000 Facebook users in the study who each gave permission to have their Facebook wall monitored. A total of 263 (0.79 percent) of the users posted a joke that referenced doctors during the observation period lasting from Dec. 15, 2010, to June 16, 2011.

There were 156 unique doctor jokes, and the authors found that jokes at the doctor’s expense got slightly better responses, judging by “likes” and posted comments, than jokes targeting others, though this association was not statistically significant.

Some of the jokes observed during the study period included:

  • Doctor, you told me I have a month to live and then you sent me a bill for $1000! I can’t pay that before the end of the month! Okay, says the doctor, you have 6 months to live ;)
  • A doctor says to a patient, “We’ve run every test we can think of and the results show you’re out of money.”
  • Here’s a question for you: What do you call a doctor who finishes last in his medical school class? Answer: Doctor.

Physicians can take solace in the fact that lawyers still sustain more humorous jabs; the joke in the study that received the most Facebook likes was a “doctor, lawyer, priest” joke that made fun of the lawyer.

While it’s interesting to take note of the general public’s use of social media, physicians must also take care to monitor their own conduct on social media sites. Recently, Milton Wolf, MD, a Kansas City-area radiologist and U.S. Senate hopeful, drew criticism for comments about patient images he posted on Facebook.