Okay, maybe the title is a bit of an exaggeration, but let’s be honest, we’ve all scared ourselves like this before. A small red bump pops up on your body, and then you automatically think the worst: you have cancer, some sort of rare skin disease, etc., when in reality, it turns out to be something a lot more minuscule, like a bug bite.
When something internally doesn’t feel right, like a part of your body is constantly sore for no reason, what do you do? More than likely, you Google it or pull up WebMD and try to diagnose yourself based on the symptoms you are feeling. While WebMD may be a credible source, you yourself are not a credible doctor.
Other times, you may not originally think that anything is wrong with you, but then you come across a video on TikTok that talks about having anxiety, and that person claims that the anxiety was being caused by a parasite. It’s normal for people to get anxious feelings, and a lot of people do experience anxiety in their lifetime, but chances are, it’s not due to a parasite. A lot of times, these types of videos are ploys to convince people to buy their product by convincing others that they have a parasite when they most likely do not.
In my own personal life, I have seen how posts like these can affect doctors who are frustrated by the amount of medical misinformation online and the negative impact it has on their patients. Not only do their patients make harmful decisions, but they also start to mistrust the information the doctors give them. This unfortunate trend has only increased in response to the pandemic as disinformation campaigns have spread about masks, treatments, and wild conspiracy theories about where, how, and why the pandemic started.
Doctors have to take a lot of time out of their day explaining medical misinformation to their patients, but you can help combat this by becoming more digitally savvy and encouraging others to do the same! Use this step-by-step method to make sure you are accurately F.A.C.T. checking when searching for medical information and advice online.
Find the Author
The first step to take is to find the author of the article or webpage. When you do find the author, ask yourself these questions to analyze how credible they are:
Next, pay attention to the accuracy of the information provided. Make sure that there are no spelling errors, everything written is grammatically correct, their sources are reliable, and lastly, the material was peer-reviewed.
Then, you want to analyze the content that is given. Here are 3 things to keep in mind when looking into the content:
Lastly, you want to take into account what the targeted purpose of the author is. Two things to pay attention to are the headline and the conclusion (also sometimes called the “call to action” or CTA). Is the headline sensational or informative? If it’s clickbait, approach with caution and a healthy dose of skepticism. Next, discern the purpose of the author. Are they trying to convince you to buy a particular product or service or solely provide information? When it comes to medical research, trustworthy information stands alone—no sales pitch or marketing angle is necessary.
It’s so easy to get sucked into those TikTok videos that claim to have a trick or hack that can help you feel better, but chances are, there is no real research behind it. This is why it’s important to fact-check things that you even have the slightest doubt about. If you have serious health concerns, skip the fact-checking and go straight to your doctor! They are professionals, and they just want to help.
And remember, while this advice for fact-checking was given in the context of separating medical fact and fiction, you can use it to investigate any article that you read or video you watch!
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