Tag Archives: skepticism

Facebook Health Groups

As a medical writer, of course I’m interested in health. One of my hobbies is to read about health and medicine on the internet — yes, even Facebook. However, in the few health groups I have joined so far (which pertain to my own family history-related health interests, particularly autoimmune disease), much misinformation predominates. Everyone who is able to comment seems to consider themselves an expert and offers advice aggressively, despite whether an elementary amount of research shows it to be unsound. I worry about the people in these groups who might not be such critical thinkers, and would take unhelpful advice.

That being said, I believe in the good of the internet. I am not like those people who believe it to be a mostly negative influence. While there is much inaccuracy to be found on the world wide web, there is also truth; when we think about it, critical thinking has always been necessary. Not everything we see on TV or read in a book is true, either. Therefore, I believe some of the malice towards internet inaccuracy is unfair. These people do not hold the same contempt for inaccurate or misleading TV shows and books, even though they should. What we need to promote is critical thinking, not anti-internet propaganda.

We should also try to limit the promotion of false information, while fully respecting free speech. Free speech is vital, so promotion of critical thinking is more important than restricting the spread of false data; there will most likely always be some amount of misinformation, and a public incapable of thinking critically is vulnerable to that.

Before following anyone’s health advice, on or off Facebook (I’ve had bad health advice given to me by my own family as well), do your own research first. Use critical thinking, and try to be aware of any biases you have going into the matter. Consult multiple sources, preferably scholarly medical journals or articles. PubMed is a wonderful online tool for this. Thanks to the internet, it is possible to do some accurate research in a relatively short amount of time — so take advantage of this. Be grateful for all the resources the internet offers us, while also knowing not to believe everything you see and hear (either on or off the internet).

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