misinformation on social media
Healthy Living

Can Misinformation on Social Media Affect My Health?

Nov 7 2022

Social media, like the internet, is home to a lot of useful information – but not all of it is helpful. Misinformation is content that is false or inaccurate, many times with the intent to garner more attention, clicks or engagement.

But how can misinformation on social media have an effect on your health?

How social media helps misinformation

Since the internet was created, there’s been false information on it. However, it used to be more difficult to publish something online.

When social media came onto the scene, anyone with an account could post something with ease and without being fact-checked. This includes medical and health information – social media trends in health started with tips for fast weight loss, vaccine alternatives and “cures” for ailments.

COVID-19 pandemic brings change

As the COVID-19 pandemic developed, misinformation on social media ran rampant. Since medical professionals and researchers didn’t know a lot about the new virus yet, it became more difficult to refute the false information that was circulating.

COVID-19 misinformation ranged from social distancing effectiveness, hospitalizations, “off-label” treatments and cures for the coronavirus and, later, vaccine efficacy.

Health misinformation on social media today

Following the rise of COVID-19’s misinformation, it’s easy to find false health trends on social media. Because many are not rooted in truth, some of these can lead to serious consequences.

Off-label use of prescription medications for things like weight loss not only open you up to side effects from the drug, but an influx of requests for it can lead to a shortage – meaning the people who need them for the conditions they are prescribed for can’t find them.

Tips to spot misinformation on social media

It can be hard to spot what’s real and what’s fake on social media sometimes. However, there are steps you can take to avoid sharing false information.

Some of these include:

  • Reliable sources: Is the article you’re reading from a credible news source? Check other news sites to see if they are reporting this information as well.
  • Expert contributors: Do the writer’s sources have the credentials to be a knowledgeable resource on the topic? Are there any other news articles or medical journals to back up the article’s claims?
  • Fact-check: If you’re unsure, try a fact-checking site. These outlets seek out trending information on the internet and do the digging for you. Common ones include Snopes, Fact Check, PolitiFact and BBC Reality Check.

Still unsure?

If you still have questions about a new health fad that’s trending online, reach out to your primary care provider. They can help clear up any confusion you may have regarding medical information online.

Learn more about our primary care services at Bon Secours.

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