Can I just say super fast that this is the second time I am writing this post, because somehow I accidentally deleted the whole thing the first time I wrote it. So let that be a lesson, always, always save what you are writing.
I was so excited this week to have two people comment about my RD Anna Facebook page and the information that I have shared. They said that they had read some of the articles and really appreciated the great information that I was sharing. That is so exciting for me. First of all, that people were actually reading what I was writing and sharing. Secondly, it was wonderful that people were recognizing and appreciating having evidence-based information that is being shared.
Our social media feeds are filled with misinformation and with the whole "fake news" phenomenon that has been occurring over the past couple of years, credible information is important. We need people to be sharing accurate information and not propagating misinformation. That is one reason why I share information on my Facebook page. I feel that as a health professional and nutrition expert, you should be getting your nutrition information from me, not some random person on the internet who calls them self a nutritionist. I also wanted to share an example with you that happened to me the other week. Someone at my work was telling me about how they had read information on Facebook about how infectious disease doctors were to blame for people dying from the flu this year. When I tried to clarify, what this person was saying her response was "the article named the specific flu strands, so therefore it has to be true." This is why as health professionals, we must share accurate, credible information and as people on social media, we need to identify misinformation.
How do you identify credible information on social media?
- Look for credible sources in the article. When you are looking through an article shared on social media, take the time to see what sources are quoted or what citation they use. Where is the writer getting their statistics? Is this information from credible sources? If you are looking at medical or wellness information are the sources being used from places like JAMA, AAP, CDC, AND or another nationally recognized institution known for presenting evidence-based information? If you can't identify any sources for the information presented, that might be a red flag this article might not be credible. If the sources are not from nationally recognized institutions, that might be another red flag to take the information with a grain of salt.
- Who are the "experts" that are being quoted? Most likely whatever, you are reading, as some time of expert that is interviewed or quoted. What are the credentials for that individual? Are they an expert in the field that they are speaking about? If the question to that is no, then that is probably not a credible article to be getting information from. For example, you don't want a podiatrist to be talking about the terrible flu season. That is not his/her area of expertise. Also look at the credentials that the "expert" has. Is this person talking about nutrition, just someone who is classified as a nutritious or is this an actual Registered Dietitian Nutritionist? If your athletic trainer is talking about nutrition, that might not be the best nutrition expert to be getting that information from. Taking the time to identify who is the "expert" is and how they are being quoted is a key way to identify credible information online.
- If the information is "too good to be true" then it might not be true. If you are reading a news headline and you just can't believe what it is saying, that should be a red flag. Every writer wants to draw you in, get you to click on the link and open the article they have written. Often writers create crazy titles to get you to click on their article. If you are reading through this information and feel like this information is too good to be true, then pause, step back and realize that it might not be accurate information. This is especially true with weight loss recommendations. Everyone wants a quick fix, but that is just not how it really works.
Hopefully this information is helpful as you try to weed through all the information on social media and identify what is actually accurate information. You might be wondering what my sources are for these recommendations, well check out some of the links below.
- from the John Hopkins Library
- from IEEE Computer Society paper
- from Science Direct a paper about factors that influence credibility of information shared on social media