Patterns of General Surgery Residency Social Media Use in the Age of COVID-19

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Surgery; School of Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Infectious Disease | Medical Education | Social Media | Surgery | Virus Diseases


OBJECTIVE: The role for social media use by General Surgery departments continues to expand and social media accounts have been increasingly implemented as a tool for residency program for promotion and engagement. The importance of these accounts appears to have increased given the unprecedented changes with COVID-19 and the dramatic and unpredictable change to the application cycle including the use of virtual interviews, suggesting a perceived need for increased online engagement with applicants. The purpose of this study was to determine the patterns of creation and usage of Twitter and Instagram accounts of Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)-accredited General Surgery residency programs and their associated surgical departments.

METHODS: A cross-sectional study of the use of Twitter and Instagram by the 332 ACGME-accredited General Surgery residency programs and their associated departments was conducted in February 2021. Twitter and Instagram accounts were identified by accessing program/department websites as well as social media platform and internet searches. Year of creation, number of followers, and number of posts (July 1, 2018-December 31, 2020) were collected. Trends in usage were compared across years stratified by platform and by account owner (department vs. residency).

RESULTS: Instagram accounts are more than five-times greater for residencies compared to departments (42% vs 8%, p < 0.001). There was not a significant difference between the number of department and residency Twitter accounts (26% vs 23%, p=0.37). Significantly more residency Instagram and Twitter accounts were created or first posted in 2020 compared to department accounts (Instagram: 100 vs 7, p < 0.001; Twitter: 31 vs 6, p=0.001). Over 18% of residency programs had both Twitter and Instagram accounts compared to only 6% of departments (p < 0.001). However, department Twitter and Instagram accounts had significantly higher median total posts from 7/1/2018-12/31/2020 (Twitter: p=0.0001, Instagram p=0.004). While the number of Instagram followers and accounts being followed were similar between residencies and departments, department Twitter accounts had a larger median number of followers (1141 vs. 430, p=0.003) and account followings (308 vs. 192, p=0.001) compared to residency accounts.

CONCLUSIONS: The number of residency social media accounts has significantly increased in 2020 compared to account creation of departments, with Instagram account creation exceeding that of Twitter and of departments. The opposite pattern in usage was seen related to number of posts, and with Twitter, followers, and number of followings, with departments outpacing residencies. This significant increase in account creation may have been influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic and the change to a virtual interview season, suggesting an unprecedented need for online engagement with applicants. As the increased social media presence will likely persist in future application cycles, further study about the impact of residency social media use on recruitment and applicant decision-making as well as effective strategies, is needed.


General surgery residency, Instagram, Residency match, Social media, Twitter, COVID-19

DOI of Published Version



Bludevich BM, Fryer M, Scott EM, Buettner H, Davids JS, LaFemina J. Patterns of General Surgery Residency Social Media Use in the Age of COVID-19. J Surg Educ. 2021 May 17:S1931-7204(21)00113-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2021.04.017. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34016568. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of surgical education

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID