"When the wise man points to the moon, the fool looks at the finger," the statement headlined. The hospital of Béziers announced this week its departure from the social network Twitter, where it had been present since May 2019. The fault to "a torrent of hatred, violence and insults" after the upload, on May 7 on YouTube, of a video "celebrating" the end of the mandatory mask in the premises.
It shows dozens of caregivers and staff members removing their protection from their faces, smiling. The director of the hospital, Philippe Banyols, ensures that there should be no message and believes that "it has become impossible to debate on this subject as on that of vaccination" on Twitter.
Why did you decide to make this video?
PHILIPPE BANYOLS. We generalized the mandatory wearing of masks on May 8, 2020. May 8 is also a symbolic date, that of the Liberation, I wanted to make a film where we see the smiles of colleagues. The mask deprives us of something in terms of human relationships, including seeing a smile. I took up my post four years ago, and there are some caregivers whose faces I discovered on this occasion. We must not forget the horror of the pandemic that we have experienced. This fight was won and we had to thank the fighters by showing their faces. We forgot one or two services that reproached us! So I assume 100% the idea of this video.
What happened after the upload, on May 7 on YouTube?
We had very different reactions from one social network to another: very good reception on Facebook and LinkedIn, and bad buzz (negative word of mouth) on Twitter. This is a textbook case, but it had never happened to us and we did not expect it. In particular, there was a lot of insult, we were called irresponsible and accused of sending the wrong message. I experienced this as absolute stupidity, and as counter exchanges without the convivial side of the counter.
Nevertheless, some criticisms were quite posed. And isn't such a film contradictory to the authorities' recommendation to continue wearing masks in hospitals?
At no time does a movie on YouTube have the same value as a memo! We are exemplary in terms of hygiene. The mask is no longer mandatory in corridors, in administrative offices, but it is still worn in health services, especially those that receive patients at risk. There is no message in this film. When you walk down the street and someone behind you lights a cigarette, it doesn't mean they're encouraging you to smoke. There, there are people smiling. Is it a problem to see people smiling?
Have you tried to respond to the criticism?
The communication department tried to respond at first, but we realized that it was not worth it and that there was nothing to do. Everything is allowed on Twitter, it has no tail or head. On this subject, as on that of vaccination, it has become impossible to debate. It's the law of the jungle, there are no more rules, especially since the arrival of Elon Musk (who took the head of Twitter at the end of last October). Today, this is of no interest to us.
You say that Twitter has become "incompatible with hospital values", that is?
Our job is benevolence, it is to take care, it is to welcome illness, misery. In the way I work, I always try not to add tension to the tension. People who are malicious, hateful, who insult very easily, it is not compatible.
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Isn't leaving Twitter the risk of cutting yourself off from part of the public?
I assume it! But Twitter seems much less influential than before. And that doesn't mean we're going to stop communicating. It is always in our interest to say and explain what we do, to value our staff, etc. But we will now do it on other networks.
Is this decision irrevocable?
Yes, and I learned with age not to act on the spot of anger (it was three weeks between the beginning of the controversy and the decision to leave the social network). Moreover, if it is necessary to put the mandatory mask everywhere, we will do it.