When it comes to social media, we post all sorts of stuff: what we eat, what we drink, who we hang out with, how we hate the weather, and oh so much more. There’s one area where apparently, we’re much more careful about: our health.
A new study from BYU finds that while most of us (over 60%) go online to search for information about diagnosing ourselves, few of us actually discuss our health online.
“Less than 15 percent of us are posting the health information that most of us are consuming,” said Rosemary Thackeray, BYU professor of health science and lead author of the study appearing online in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
It’s not clear yet if people use the internet instead of going to the doctor or as complementary information, but this could actually be a good thing.
“The inherent value of ‘social’ in social media is not being captured with online health information seeking,” Thackeray said. “Social media is still a good source of health information, but I don’t think it’s ever going to replace providers or traditional health care sources.”
According to the researchers, social media could become even more valuable if professionals tune in to the discussion. Patients could become more empowered and doctors could be more aware of the public discourse around certain medical issues. We’re not there though.
“We’re just not there yet, but we’ll probably get there in the future,” Thackeray said.
Just remember, as much information as there is on the internet, this is not a substitute for a physician! Of course, it can provide valuable information, but most of the common symptoms are… well, common, and you should never really try to diagnose yourself. If you do check the internet and are worried about something, ask your physician.