A users guide for navigating health resources online
Navigating health resources online
While social media allows for instant and entertaining content, the internet also presents a slue of misinformation.
Global healthcare is vastly discussed, as new diseases, cures, and technologies are brought about and shared online. This information is greatly publicized on popular social media platforms, such as Twitter (X), Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
With an immense global health influx of information comes the spread of false and information that can spread quickly on online platforms.
The National Library of Medicine noted the prevalence of healthcare misinformation, noting that 80% of internet users use social media to research doctors, hospitals, and medical news and information.
Emphasized with misinformation spread rapidly online during the COVID-19 pandemic, health information has become more susceptible to misconceptions than ever — persisting even three years later.
In recent months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted approval for the latest COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Additionally, in early October, they authorized the use of an updated Novavax Covid vaccine for individuals aged 12 and older. With each health update, a barrage of misinformation accompanies it, sparking debates on the effectiveness of the vaccines.
Use these tips to responsibility engage with healthcare and medical content online:
Learn to question “reputable” content
On premier, social media platforms a lot of the healthcare topics appear legitimate, as they may even come from a well-established pharmaceutical company. When navigating medical information online, users should remain aware of the motives involved in social media content.
“There is a lot of outside influence from pharmaceutical companies from what goes into social media- these companies are set to promote healthcare aspects and have done so for financial reasons,” Otolaryngology surgeon Allan Pollak said.
“You also need to be cautious because much of the social media content is put out by powerful individuals who are trying to convey a message that may be more political than scientific.”
Double check the credibility
When absorbing medical information from social media, users should make sure that the information is factual.
To check credibility, users can research the background information and raise questions about the source of the content: Do they have a medical professional background? Are they citing where they attained the information?
SU journalism student Marie Achkar extened advice to social media users: “Make sure you’re following people who are valid sources. Are you following doctors? Or the CDC?” she said.
“Follow people who provide you with valid information and double check that information whether that be the people or criteria itself. It’s up to you to figure that out on your own.”
Education yourself on the subject
Whether this entails checking daily updates from the CDC or FDA, do what you can to become educated about global health. With a stronger background on medical information, it can be easier to recognize exaggerated or blatantly fake health news.
“My patients don’t always have the scientific background or education to critically analyze these statements being made so therefore can make the wrong decision,” Pollak said. However, he explained that the difference comes in individual efforts toward productive and safe information intake.
Beware of anecdotal evidence
Social media health content deems convincing through emotional responses, as well. Especially on TikTok, users and organizations often share information solely based on personal anecdotes and user data.
While emotional content can be moving, personal stories can’t be the basis of individual health-related decisions.
“Coming from 20 year old student, I am always on TikTok,” Achkar said. “But you have to be cautious because there are so many TikTok’s about rumors.”