The internet is a wonderful place. It’s full of all kinds fascinating stories and information and I think it’s wonderful, amazing and potentially dangerous.

The biggest problems with the internet are its immediacy and its accessibility. In a little while I’ll finish writing this post and then press a button. Instantaneous opinion will appear online, available for anyone with the technology to access it.

Some of you have bravely signed up to follow my blog. In fact very recently I celebrated the 100 follower mark. (Thank you!)

When I post on this blog, I try very hard to make sure that I post appropriately. Most of the time I’m posting my opinion, or updates about my stories. But I could post about anything, and in that lies the power of the internet for both good, and for want of a better word…evil. (Dramatic music..)

As someone with a background in the health sciences and a keen interest in the world, I’m always fascinated by scientific breakthroughs, new research, and as quite a few of you’ve probably picked up on, feminism.

Yesterday our daughter spoke to me online, feeling very angry. She’s away at university, so online is how we often communicate. (One of the other internet wonders.) A mutual friend had posted an image on Facebook touting the wonders of cashew nuts and promoting them as ‘the same as prozac’ for depression.

Our daughter suffers from severe depression and also anxiety. She has my utmost respect for the way she’s dealt with its onset and management. She’s worked so hard to cope with all the issues associated with the ongoing nature of depression, including managing cold turkey medication changes while far away from family. For anyone with a family member who suffers from depression, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s a hard road. It’s difficult for someone who hasn’t experienced it to understand, but much more difficult for the person suffering through it.

Back to my point – although a well meaning post, the post contained no facts, just hearsay. People who are unwell with any kind of illness are vulnerable. They look for hope, and the internet supplies it – no matter whether that hope is founded in any fact at all. Sometimes the ‘hope’ it supplies is dangerous – as it could have been in that particular case. Someone might see it, believe it and cease their medication, and then tragedy in the form of suicide or a psychotic episode might eventuate.

When we click ‘share,’ ‘favourite’ or ‘like’ we really need to think about what it is we’re validating with our clicks. I try and use the THINK acronym.

T – Is it TRUE?
H – Is it HELPFUL?
N – Is it NICE?
K – Is it KIND?

As far as medical stuff goes – well in my experience it’s a minefield. Like I said, I”m a health professional when I’m not writing and I have training in evaluating evidence. But unless you have a background that has taught you those things, it can be very difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff.

I’m no mechanic, but although I could ‘google’ car issues if my car had one, it makes much more sense for me to actually take my car to the mechanic. (And given that the last time I ‘fixed’ my bicycle, we had to buy a new one, it’s even more essential.) The car mechanic has the tools, the expertise, and the skill to diagnose and fix my car, so I’ll bow to their superior abilities.

I suggest the same approach to healthcare advice online – take yourself to the Doctor rather than consulting ‘Dr Google’ and think carefully before you ‘like’ or ‘share’ something that may not be fact. You could inadvertently set in place the circumstances for a tragedy.


2 thoughts on “THINK

  1. Your point about considering the facts and experts is a really good one. I think that one of the things the internet has done is to let lots of voices to be heard, which is great – it’s liberating and democratising and makes for far livelier debate. But we seem to have confused ‘every argument has a right to be heard’ with ‘every argument is equally valid’. I wonder if one of the tools we need to teach more in the internet age is how to separate bold claims from well evidenced claims, as you’ve alluded to here.

    I’ve also made a note of your THINK list – a good one to make sure I’m thinking about what I say too.

  2. That’s great to hear Andrew, and I do think you’re correct. Somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten about validity and evidence. It’s a really important thing.

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