The growth of social media over the past five or six years has changed the way many people gather and share information about topics that range from sports to politics to laser spine surgery. It used to be that if you wanted to find out what your neighbors are thinking about a particular topic, you either had to wait until the next neighborhood gathering, call a bunch of them in succession, or go door to door and ask. Now, all you need to do is post a Facebook status update or write something on Twitter to start building a conversation with the people you know.
Social media affects almost every aspect of our lives today. How many times have you seen a Facebook friend or Twitter follower ask “the crowd” about a particular topic? It can be as varied as life itself – the best pediatrician, the best local restaurant, the best lawn service, etc. It might even be that someone you know has complained of neck pain on Facebook or a blog entry, possibly even asking for medical advice.
Is it a good idea to “crowd source” information about neck pain and other medical maladies? Can a Google search, Facebook status update, or tweet render truly useful information about your particular condition? The answer, of course, is that it depends on the source.
Anonymous Advice and Dr Google
A quick Google search for the term [neck pain Twitter] returns no less than a half-dozen Twitter accounts related to the topic of neck pain. Some of them have thousands of followers, which on the surface makes them appear to be fairly authoritative on the subject. Yet, should the information provided in these Twitter streams be taken at face value? The short answer to that, of course, is no. Because of the anonymous nature of most Twitter accounts, any information gleaned from them about something as important as your health should be treated as a starting point only. Yes, some of them direct you to extremely informative articles and websites, but how do you know who actually wrote that information unless it is clearly marked with a byline and a date stamp? In short, you don’t.
But what about asking questions of friends and family members on Facebook? Surely, you can trust them not to steer you wrong? Well, they might have your best interest at heart when they answer your questions, but unless they are trained medical professionals, it is best not to take their word as gospel, either.
Usually, the best source of information about your particular neck or back pain is a good, old-fashioned, face-to-face visit with your physician. He or she can bring his or her training to bear, and offer advice that is geared toward your specific symptoms and potential spine condition. So, enjoy the interaction social media affords us. Just don’t let it be a substitute for truly knowledgeable medical advice.