Social media can be simultaneously one of the best and worst things to have ever been popularized in the 21st century. On the good end of the spectrum – it’s a good location to socialize, to meet people, and to see funny memes on the Internet. Also, if you want to spread your brand name, you can easily market your business by looking through all available Malaysia social media marketing services to find the best social marketing services Malaysia in KL, or even start social marketing services in Malaysia of your own if you’re good at social media and are looking for a job. On the bad end of the spectrum, though, social media is also a breeding ground for all sorts of negative things – anonymous hate, stranger danger situations, and, of course, the spread of medical misinformation.
Medical misinformation is the bane of any medical figure’s career. For people who specialize in helping others with their medical ailments, it can be particularly frustrating and disheartening to see people led astray by false information, or even get spikes of anxiety because the Internet may have made out a disease to be worse than it actually is. Before, it was still relatively easy to assuage people’s worries when they came into the clinic – now, however, with social media being so efficient in spreading and propagating information, regardless of whether said information is true or false, people learn about false information far quicker than most physicians and medical figures can stop it. Unfortunately, this is especially true for our current situation in the Covid-19 pandemic – with so many people scared and turning to the Internet for medical answers, it can be so easy to be misled by false information; making a dangerous situation all the more precarious.
The spread of medical misinformation can often be traced back to several reasons. If one is aiming to curb said information, it is therefore important to get well acquainted with some of these reasons:
People Want Profit
Unfortunately, in today’s capitalistically-driven society, people can care for money more than anything else. With this mindset, corporations and individuals alike can even forego the ethics of spreading true medical information in favor of propagating another story that can better earn a profit. For quote-unquote ‘medical brands’ that sell ‘medicines’, this can sometimes manifest as them making out a disease to be worse than it actually is, or claiming that their medicine can prevent a symptom that doesn’t even exist, just to sell more products – even if it means more people on the Internet might be misled.
People Are Scared
Sometimes, the spreading of false information doesn’t come from a necessarily nefarious source. In times of worldwide anxiety, such as a pandemic, people are obviously going to be afraid; and thus, they will more readily believe any information they may see on the Internet without proper fact-checking. In this sense, them sharing false information may not be because they want to generate a profit or anything else, but because they genuinely believe the information is true due to their own fear and lack of proper medical knowledge. It’s important to understand that scared people are often the sharers, not the starters, of misinformation; but considering how sharing is integral to it’s spread, it can be just as bad for misinformation.
People Want Sensationalism
This ties in somewhat with the first reason listed above, though not quite as prominently money-driven. Rather than being motivated by money, false information is sometimes shared over true ones because the false information has been glamorized; and therefore turns into a much more interesting and share-worthy story than the original true version. In this sense, people are driven to share less by money and more because they want sensationalism, as sensationalism might get people talking far more than a comparatively ‘boring’ true account.
There can be a myriad of reasons as to why people start and share false medical information on social media. Regardless of their intentions, however, the end result is generally the same – a huge number of people sharing and believing blatantly untrue information and causing harm unto themselves; whether due to false medical practices or heightened psychological distress. When this happens, it can be very difficult for true medical practitioners to spread true medical information; as on the Internet, it is not easy to parse through every single medical article out there and determine which one is true and false. Still, there are some steps you can take to preventing the spread of misinformation; whether you’re a medical practitioner or a layman:
1. Don’t Believe Sources That Are Selling A Product
According to San Francisco MD and pain medicine physician Jen Gunter, sources that sell a product can be particularly suspicious when it comes to the medical information they tell. Even if these sources do not intend to be overtly malicious, it’s important to understand that their first priority is to sell a product, and to inform second – so any information they may give will, however subtly, be tailored into getting you to buy their product.
2. Check With Your Doctor
Considering how doctors are likely swamped with work these days, it may be difficult to set up an appointment with them every single time you want to ask them about a thing you saw online. Still, an appointment can still help in some ways if you can get one – rather than constantly calling them and asking them about every little thing on the Internet, compile a list of questions about the disease or ailment in question you wish to know about, then set up a consultation session with your doctor to ask them all. As your doctor should be a medically-licensed professional whose first instinct is to help you, you can trust that the facts they say are true – or at least, much more reliable than anything you see on the Internet.