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Misleading #Healthcare Information Rampant on #Pinterest and #Instagram

If there existed a stone tablet somewhere with the rules to proper internet use inscribed on it, this would be somewhere near the top of the list: don't use it instead of a doctor. Places like Yahoo Answers are hotbeds of medical misinformation, telling people worried about their different sized pupils that they're about to have a brain hemorrhage or that their ear is itching because it's made of cancer. Do not trust the internet as a means of diagnosis, go and see a goddamn doctor.

The trouble is, increasingly, that it's not just sick people/hypochondriacs typing their symptoms into Google anymore, the issue is becoming so widespread that it's finding people, rather than them seeking it out. Now, weirdly, it's spread to visual social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. A recent study found that of all the Pinterest posts about vaccines, 75% of them contained negative sentiment and remarkably, 20% of those were conspiracy theories about vaccines being, well, evil, and potentially deadly.

This wouldn't be quite so worrying if Pinterest was a niche platform, but at present it has 74 million users and is considered to be one of the fastest ground social networks out there. The crazed conspiracy theories about population control are also heavily outnumbered by far more professional looking posts, which are nonetheless just as misleading.

Searching for medical material on Instagram via hashtags yields a similar result, as well as something else which is just as worrying. A lot of people have taken to posting images of their various ailments on the platform in the hopes of getting a visual diagnosis, once again in order to avoid a doctor's appointment. To say the info they get back is untrustworthy is a stark understatement in some cases.

This could be seen as a by-product of social media becoming one of the most popular ways to browse the internet, but whatever the case, it's very dangerous. Sickness scares a lot of people, and it's perfectly natural to seek out social sources of help or comfort, but also extremely risky. As daunting as the notion of seeing a doctor might seem, it's always the best course of action, leave Pinterest for posting pictures of dogs in hats.

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Misleading #Healthcare Information Rampant on #Pinterest and #Instagram Reviewed by Unknown on Saturday, January 30, 2016 Rating: 5

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