Health and Social Media

Overwhelming numbers of US citizens go online to search for health information at 80% of internet users, or 59% of all adults (Fox 2011a). These large percentages demonstrate the internet’s significance in the landscape of contemporary health care. More specifically, many people use social media applications to author narratives about their personal experiences with health and illness (Hardey 2002; Landro 2005); connect to other people with similar illnesses (Bar-Lev 2008; Josefsson 2005; Orgad 2005); and share health information, including personal data (Goetz 2008; Levina 2012). As I found in my study of women bloggers with Multiple Sclerosis (Sosnowy 2013), some develop lay expertise about their illness and assume a pseudo-professional role in communication with health professionals and in managing their care. In addition, many of them view themselves as “translators” of complex medical information for others. My participants felt a responsibility to provide reliable information, and they are careful to provide background sources. In other words, the production of health and social media is no longer in the hands of the “experts.” We are all the experts now.

This mixture of enthusiasm and caution in the current discourse around health and social media leaves ample room for critical discourse among scholars, health professionals, and patients. It is currently being debated and practiced in digital spaces, as well as the doctor’s office. Examining these discourses through the interdisciplinary lens of environmental psychology demonstrates the intersectionality between social science inquiry and health care, revealing areas of overlap as well as contradictions. …

To read more on this topic and see the recommended reading list for this topic by Collette Sosnowy, click here.

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