Social media has grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade. Today, a simple post can generate enough following and spur a revolution.
Social media platforms have improved the way we communicate with each other while also building friendships along the way. However, it is not the best source when it comes to certain things. For instance, health is a fundamental right of everyone.
When it comes to health matters, the internet is never the best source of reliable and credible information. Well, at least, not those on social media platforms.
Health as the Sum Total of the Individual
Health is an individual’s totality. It speaks of one’s physical health as well as mental and social wellbeing. It also talks about an individual’s emotional and spiritual health.
In recent times, the recognition of sexual wellness is now an integral part of one’s health. Given the fact that the health of a person depends on the interaction of these five components, it is a serious concern.
Optimum health is only possible if there is a successful integration of these 5 components in the person’s life. It means that he must be free from disease, is mentally sound, and emotionally stable. He must also have a sound spirituality and responsible sexuality.
Internet and the Social Media
The internet has opened a lot of doors to many entities. There are official websites of reputable health organisations like the World Health Organisation and the Australian Department of Health. There are also websites of academic institutions and research-driven organisations. One can always rely on the veracity of the information that these organisations provide.
And then there are social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and many more. It is true that reputable organisations also have their own social media accounts. For instance, the World Health Organisation has both Twitter and Facebook accounts.
However, majority of users or owners of social media accounts are individuals or entities who may not have the professional competencies to provide reliable information about health.
There are also healthcare practitioners like doctors, nurses, and therapists who may have their own blogs and social media accounts. They may have the right information about certain things, but not everything about health.
For example, you cannot expect a general surgeon to have the same level of expertise as a neurosurgeon. As such, when it comes to health information about brain tumours, who would you believe?
Implications of False or Inaccurate Health Information
Do not believe everything you read on social media unless the health information comes from a reputable source. As we already mentioned, there are trustworthy organisations that also have their own social media accounts. One can always rely on the accuracy and truthfulness of the information that these organisations provide.
Unfortunately, there are social media accounts that spread false information. Many of these accounts do not provide verifiable sources. In cases where they do provide their sources, many of these are not scientific-based. What it means is that they are not based on empirical evidence.
The implications of less-than-accurate health information on social media platforms are immense. Given that there are more than 2.3 billion users on Facebook alone, one can imagine how many individuals are given the wrong information. This can have significant ramifications on public health.
Instead of protecting their health, individuals are at risk of making the wrong decisions related to their health. Instead of seeking reliable healthcare treatments from reputable organisations and individuals, they may take matters into their hands.
They may use questionable therapies. In other words, we are undermining our health by believing information with dubious accuracy and veracity.
Protecting Yourself against False Health Information on Social Media
There are several ways you can protect yourself against false health information on social media. First, don’t believe everything at face value. Learn to dig deeper. Trust only reliable sources, especially from trustworthy organisations and educational institutions.
Learn to discern the difference between fact and opinion: stick with the facts if you want to stay healthy. But if you want to entertain yourself, then somebody else’s opinion would be valuable. Steer clear of anecdotal evidence as these do not provide empirical proof.
Don’t believe everything you read on social media. Your health matters. Only reliable members of the healthcare profession can provide you with honest and factual information.