• Maree Jones

Social media, misinformation, and your physical health




While some people may already be familiar with the harm social media can do to one's mental health, I was intrigued about how social media impacts our physical health.


Once I began research for this My Social Habit, I set up specific Google Alert keywords, such as:

  • social media and health

  • social media and mental health

  • social media and health claims


And every week, there are new articles published about the harmful effects on our overall health primarily caused by social media.


After reviewing the information found, it seems that medical and health-related information shared on sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram isn't always reliable.


That, you probably knew.


What you likely did not know was how pervasive false information is. Some of this incorrect health information is well-orchestrated, purposeful, and disbursed by bots and other accounts to make them seem authentic.


HOW SOCIAL MEDIA IMPACTS YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH


Social media has the potential to impact your overall health and wellness, primarily because of the misinformation that spreads quickly on multiple platforms.


Consider the potential harm caused by:


  • Fake social media accounts drowning out actual science (source).

  • Unproven cures for diseases being read, acknowledged, and believed (and shared) by the general public (source).

  • Non-smokers enticed to try vaping, based on social media memes, viral content, and peer pressure (source).

  • Conspiracies about cancer overshadowing real news and important health information posted on social media (source).


Emotional factors, such as fear or paranoia, also feed the spreading of false health information across digital sites. This includes the popular FOMO (fear of missing out) when talking about vaping, specifically.


COMBATING FALSE INFORMATION ON SOCIAL MEDIA


In looking at each of the health-related claims above, one way to combat false information is relatively simple: slow down.


In an age where we're so quick to consume, spread, and share information with our social networks, friends, and families, it's essential to slow down, read carefully, and ensure your information is coming from a reliable source.


CREATING HEALTHY HABITS ON SOCIAL MEDIA


When it comes to creating healthy habits on social media, mental health is only one aspect of it. The things we read and consume have the potential to impact our physical and overall health, as well.


Be aware and fact-check any information that intrigues you BEFORE you share it.


It could mean the difference between perpetuating false information and sharing useful knowledge with your friends and family.