Could You Do a Full-Jarvis? A Half-Jarvis?: Blogging, Publicness, and Prostate Cancer

 

I’d like to share an ongoing discussion taking place over at Jeff Jarvis’s blog BuzzMachine.

Jeff, an old friend and neighbor in a Brooklyn co-op , is a CUNY journalism professor and the author of What Would Google Do, a fascinating take on  how a number of organizations and services could be transformed by applying aspects of the Google ethos, especially the importance of  listening carefully to customers/clients.  Jeff advocates a kind of radical listening that actually enlists the customer as partner. I can’t do it justice here, but any of you wondering how  the digital age and link economy might affect health care should definitely take a look.

But the issue/argument I wanted to tell you about  has to do with Jeff himself. Diagnosed with prostate cancer,  and faced with the challenge of choosing a treatment,  Jeff decided to take the digital age ethos of transparency and publicness to a place it has rarely gone. A number of his posts have dealt in specific, unflinching detail about his diagnosis, treatment, and – most recently – treatment side effects.

 Jeff’s account is explicit. It is raw.  I strongly urge you to read his posts, read the vigorous debate they have engendered, and think — as health care professionals —  how you feel about where the idea of publicness led him.

 I just noticed that I made it this far  without using any of the clear, transparent, Jarvisian language that would have at least given you a hint  about what Jeff wrote. Clearly, my own admiration for  what he has done has not yet fully transformed my own essentially private nature.  So let me get it out of the way: Jeff talks about incontinence and his difficulty getting an erection  without an ounce of reluctance or embarrassment.

I will say this: You will find a number of comments on Jeff’s site and elsewhere criticizing him for over-sharing, narcissism, exhibitionism,  and probably a few more DSM-listed disorders. You can make up your own mind, but you should  know that I don’t buy these criticisms for a moment.  Jeff had been thinking about publicness for a long time when he faced the question of how public he would be about himself. And he simply has too much integrity to urge us all toward “all cards on the table” openness without being that way himself. Publicness and generosity of spirit are not some grand buzz-generating strategy for Jeff, they are  at the core of who he is. 

I’ll be curious what you think. In a similar situation, could you imagine yourself sharing these kinds of details in a public forum? 

Could you or would you do a full-Jarvis?

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