Are you the victim of Dr. Facebook?
The, the joys of social media. We are certainly in the era of internet and technology, and this is completely transforming how we collaborate socially. In fact, social media (SM) sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are powerful symbols of a new generation of online tools and applications that foster user-generated content, social interaction, and real-time collaboration (George et. al, 2013). In 2012, Facebook encompassed a billion users worldwide, or 1/7 of the human population. Furthermore, a growing majority of modern patients – particularly those with chronic conditions – are seeking out social media like Facebook and other online sources to acquire health information, connect with others affected by similar conditions, and play a more active role in their healthcare decisions(Geroge et al, 2013). Over the years, as more websites and online information portals become increasingly available, patients are turning to these sources for answers to their health conditions. However, these sites were never intended to be the sole source of information to enable anyone to self-diagnose. In fact, many sites clearly state that the information shown is for educational purposes, and are intended to supplement, not replace, professional advice and visits to medical practitioners. With health care reforms reducing the actual face-time with doctors, patients are turning to the web for answers (Holtz, n.d.) And this is a dangerous and slippery slope!
Self-Medicating May Miss The Underlying Problem
In the spheres of social media, I read of hundreds of people who are self-diagnosing, self-prescribing, and self-medicating with no confirmation from a trained and qualified medical professional. They go onto their favorite Facebook page or blog, indicate some of their symptoms, and then a bunch of people respond. However, none of these people are medical doctors or qualified professionals who have actually reviewed their medical history and/or run any tests on them. Sure, “if I do this it hurts, so I’ll stop doing it” is a fair enough assessment of one’s own medical condition. Simply stopping the thing that provokes a symptom, however, isn’t identifying the true cause of the problem. It raises the possibility that we may be ignoring something that either a) can be fixed or b) needs further attention (Gleason, n.d.) Then they are given a list of supplements to try, foods to eat or not eat, or are told to do some unconventional things and hope for the best! I am not saying that any of this advice was not good, but in all honestly, they are just shooting at the hip when they self-diagnose and self-treat in this manner. For example, if you see any unusual blood of any kind, please DO NOT call Dr. Facebook! If you have a strange pain or swelling somewhere, it is time to seek a professional and get screened right away.
As an integrative practitioner myself, I often have to differentiate between when something is within my area of expertise or if I need to seek additional help. There are different levels of professionals you can seek, from naturopathic doctors, functional practitioners, chiropractors, clinical nutritionists and medical doctors. However, each of these people are trained specifically in their field. They have spent time and money to learn the academics and have been mentored to apply what they have learned in practice. They also belong to a network of other professionals that collaborate together to continue to learn in their area of expertise. Just because someone tried a certain supplement or herb for their condition does NOT mean this is the right approach for you! Often times people get lost in all the information and can actually do something to hurt themselves. One example I always use it the use of HCL digestive aids. People on social media tell of their experience with HCL and how it helped them digest their food better. A participant tries it, not knowing they have H. pylori, and they end up with a severe case of gastritis. Do not make the mistake of using Dr. Facebook to self-diagnose and treat yourself. Work with a qualified professional to guide you, and stop spinning your wheels. It can save your life. And a whole lot of money, time and heart ache