Social Media: Finding Credible Info On the Internet

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Social Media: Finding Credible Info On the Internet

Health information on the internet is often not credible. Authority figures are scarce on the internet. I would recommend reading from credible authorities and learning to be critical readers. Use of the internet should augment your relationship with your doctor and not be a substitute for a health provider.

Why do you believe everything on the Internet?

“I Read it on the Internet” Most of what I read on the internet, regarding health information, is bunk.  Whether it is advice on diets, exercises, medical treatments, etc., most is off target, non-factual and opinionated and biased. People are likely to believe what we read on the internet as gospel because……….well, it is on the internet!  As if the internet is the ultimate stamp of “authority.”

Lack of Credibility Most web sites, especially health,  have no credibility whatsoever.  There is no review system in place to filter information.  In time, this will come, but for now, read carefully.  Read and look for sites that are written by authorities.  In my case, the content of my web site should be more credible than others.  I am a physician.  I am a retina specialist.  This makes me an authority on retinal diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and retinal detachments.

True vs. Perceived Authority True authorities are hard to come by, especially on the internet.  The world’s most famous authority on “snipes,” isn’t necessarily the authority on the internet.   The “perceived” authority will be found on the internet.  The “perceived” authority is the person who takes the time to publish about “snipes,” and this may even include work by the true authority.

In other words, the person that publishes the most about a topic is more likely to be the perceived authority and is easily found with you “Google” a topic, whereas the true authority may lie dormant and be lost on the internet.

It’s Easy to Get On The Internet It is so easy, I’ve done it.  It is easy to create a web page or blog.  Simple software is available for free.  Sophisticated software is nominal.  I use a company to “host” my web sites.  Overall, it costs less than 10 dollars a month.  My point is that it is easy and cheap. You basically just need a computer.

What Does This Mean? It does not mean that everything you read is bad information.  Most of the health information on sites like WebMD and NIH is awesome and factual.  These authorities have authored the content on the web pages.  Be cautious about the source if you are not familiar with them.  They are, however, often very hard to read.  I find the information is too broad and not necessarily targeted to their readers.

  • Beware of Selling Beware of web sites that seem to promote health information and are trying to sell you something.  For example, health supplements such as vitamins.  I believe there is a conflict of interest.  On my sites, I may eventually be selling something, but I promise it won’t compromise the credibility of what you read on my site.  For instance, I won’t be selling “eye vitamins.”
  • Look for the “contact” information. If it is hard to find the author, or owner, of the web site, then I’d be suspect of the information.
  • Look for Credible Authorities. For instance, I’d recommend looking for medical sites written by ………….. doctors.  As you move away from the doctors, the authority figures have less clout, but it is a good place to start.
  • The Internet is NOT a Doctor. You should still see a doctor.  Use the internet to gain information and learn.  Use the internet to ask your doctor better questions.  The internet is an awesome place for information.  You just have to figure out what to believe!
  • Tell Your Doctor! – Part of my charge is to create credible sources of information on the internet.  By using our innate authority as physicians, I am pleading that more and more docs create sites like www.RetinaEyeDoctor.com.  There are huge implications for my disseminating factual health information regarding diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.
  • Social Media If you find a site you like, comment, tell others, tell your friends and even your own doctors!  You may even consider using social media to share your good news!

“Randy”

Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist
Fairfax, Virginia