Social media has evolved from a way to communicate with others into a multifaceted platform that encompasses various aspects of our daily lives. People can easily find and consume content related to their health concerns thanks to the increasing accessibility of health information and health-specific content creators. Health information on social media is also visually appealing and relatable, allowing users to connect with others who have similar health concerns or experiences. TikTok, in particular, has become a popular platform for health-related content. TikTok is one of the most popular social media platforms with over 1.5 billion active monthly users. According to Social Insider, TikTok boasts the highest social media engagement rate per post when compared to other popular platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The platform’s unique algorithm uses machine learning to curate personalized content for each user based on their interests and engagement history. Its algorithm is able to recommend content based on users’ interests and previous searches, creating a personalized experience that feels more connected and authentic than traditional search engines.
Unfortunately, health information on social media also comes with various downsides, most notably through medical misinformation. As TikTok’s format of short-form videos with captions such as #healthtips or #wellnesstips are so easy to consume, people are more likely to trust the information that is presented to them, even from content creators who do not have any medical training. Additionally, because TikTok’s algorithm is based on user engagement, it may prioritize popular—but inaccurate—health information over evidence-based sources. A study by O’Sullivan et al revealed that of the 390 videos they found on TikTok about pediatric urology (a branch of medicine focused on the evaluation and treatment of children’s urinary and genital problems), only 22.2% of the videos contained information that is consistent with guidelines provided by the European Association of Urology. Furthermore, nearly three-quarters of participants reported seeing or hearing inaccurate medical or health information at some point in their lives, with social media being the biggest culprit. In fact, 82% of those who reported seeing misinformation said that they saw it on social media, according to GoodRx. This shows that there is a significant risk of misinformation on TikTok, and people need to be cautious when consuming health information on the platform. People may choose to use TikTok or other forms of social media in order to treat their ailments, which could delay potentially necessary care that people would be able to receive by going to a doctor.
Overall, while social media can be a great resource for health and wellness information, users need to be aware of the risks of misinformation and take steps to verify the legitimacy of their sources and the accuracy of the information they consume. It is essential to consult with your healthcare provider before making any significant changes to your health regimen. By being cautious and critical consumers of health information on social media, we can help ensure that we’re getting accurate and reliable health information. Joining a social media platform like Tell™ would be a perfect start for receiving accurate health information from trusted healthcare professionals. Every provider on Tell™ is verified, and only providers can post content and recommend posts.