The perils of self-diagnosing on the Internet

The perils of self-diagnosing on the Internet

One of the benefits of our connected, modern world is the ability to find an answer to a problem—and quickly. For example, a quick Google search for my mysterious red, flaky eyelid rash revealed that I either had eczema, a fungus or Demodex mites that live in the eyelash follicles. That narrowed down the field quite nicely… and raised my anxiety levels over what I later realized was just a bad reaction to eyeshadow.

Inevitably, whenever you use the Internet to self-diagnose you'll uncover a broad spectrum of maladies that don't pertain to your situation. When you tell a doctor your symptoms, you don't leave anything out. But if you tell a search engine all your symptoms, it will likely only find a handful of results that exactly match your condition. Plus, doctors also don't tell you you're going to die right away. They usually leave that part out until they have conclusive, scientific tests.

This information overload is a problem, and it's one I take on every day as I write for NewHope360. We strive for accurate reporting that's well-researched and backed by multiple sources. That way, if one person cries "The sky is falling!" you'll have five other perspectives that may bring you back down to earth.

But this problem extends beyond our articles. It recently came up in several comments on our site, most notably on press releases posted under NPI Center on NewHope360. These press releases are submitted by natural product industry companies and posted as a forum for industry news.

Problems arise when commenters leave questions asking how to use products or divulge personal information about their health. These questions are best policed by the companies themselves, however the only way companies would know about the comments is by checking back or us contacting them. With hundreds of press releases posted each month, it's not a feat we take on, nor an expectation of our clients.

But the problem isn't comments on new press releases—it's comments on press releases posted years ago. Two questions come to mind:

  1. Why would someone comment on an outdated press release and expect a response?
  2. At what point should we turn off our monitors and ask our doctors?

It's the responsibility of content managers such as myself to remove inaccurate, outdated content and comments. But it's the responsibility of a commenter to take control of their health and contact the company or brand directly. Or, in the event of an eyelid rash, to get tips from a dermatologist that Topical Vitamin C can relieve the itch.

What are your thoughts on self-diagnosing via the Internet?

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