How to Spot Bad Health Advice on Social Media
If you spend any time at all scrolling through TikTok, Instagram, YouTube or other social media platforms, it’s more than likely that you’ve seen some type of health, wellness or self-care advice being shared. With so much advice swirling around these days, it can be hard to separate the good from the bad.
Some advice may be harmless. You may see influencers sharing inspiring meals to whip up for dinner or motivating videos that encourage you to move more. If what you see makes you feel good or spurs you to take better care of yourself, there’s not much to worry about.
What you should be wary of, however, is people who make physical or mental health claims who aren’t qualified to do so or who do so with an ulterior motive. Some people push specific supplements without having a background in nutrition, may promote exercise habits that are extreme or suggest ways to improve your mental health that are not backed by real evidence (or that ultimately make you feel worse).
So what should you do if you see health advice on social media? Should you ignore all of it? Follow what sounds good to you? Embrace it because it’s shared by someone who looks knowledgeable?
Here are some things to steer clear of:
- People making claims about conditions, medications or treatments who are not licensed health professionals. Before you go and do something that may impact your health, do your research and talk to a qualified health professional. Someone on TikTok isn’t usually qualified to tell you how to treat your health condition, especially without knowing anything about your health history.
- Beware of unattainable, extreme or “quick fix” claims. Many social media influencers make it seem like it’s easy to have the perfect body, the perfect life or the perfect fill-in-the-blank. This perfectionism may do one of two things. Either it causes you to overdo whatever it is you’re trying to do or it makes you feel bad when you realize it’s not easy for you to be so perfect.
- Marketing claims. There are some medical professionals who do share advice on social media, but even though they may have the background to make a health claim, they may be doing it for the wrong reasons. Some people use their platforms as a marketing tool, trying to sell a product or service. They may do it under the guise of sharing information, but the information they share may be very one-sided or is designed to draw you into a sales funnel.
If you see health advice on social media and want to get a better sense of whether it’s valid or not, consider the source. Look up the person making the claim and see what their background and expertise is. Also try to determine if the advice being shared is one-sided or if it’s promoting a specific product or service. If it is, it may give you some insight into the person’s motivation. Look into any health claims in greater detail. If a valid claim is being made on social media, you should be able to find additional research to back it up from other reputable sources.
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Date Last Reviewed: January 19, 2023
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD