Tiktok is full of bad health “tricks”

Keren Landman, MD is a senior reporter covering public health, emerging infectious diseases, the health workforce, and health justice at Vox. Keren is trained as a physician, researcher, and epidemiologist.

VOX – I’ve been on the consumer health beat for a few months now. That means I stand directly in the path of a lot of strikingly bad “wellness” advice on social media.

For example: Take potato juice instead of antibiotics for strep throat (what? no); douse yourself in beer for a better tan (ouch — use sunscreen or stay in the shade); scoop dry protein powder directly into your mouth (bad idea!).

It also means I think a lot about the consequences of the bullshit fire hose. People are getting hurt, and experts, struck with horror at the spectacle, are sinking countless hours and dollars into attempts at a fix.

A variety of scientists and health care providers are trying to flood the zone with debunking content. However, it’s not at all clear that the content is reaching or changing many minds among those most susceptible to health misinformation.

As someone relatively new to doing debunking work, I hate it. It is boring, and it is endless.

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“The ‘one weird hack’ videos influencers barf up seem to come in multipacks of a thousand; before I’ve whack-a-moled even one of them, 10 more have cropped up.”

And because I’m not convinced that what’s written actually reaches the people most likely to believe the health bullshit they see online, the work often feels pointless.

There’s plenty of fault to go around for this bleak state of affairs.

I blame the snake oil salespeople who profit off others’ desperation and confusion, and the tech platforms that allow them to proliferate.

I blame the regulators and legislators who drag their feet on bringing these massive corporations into check.

I blame the underfunding of public education, which would otherwise be teaching kids better critical thinking skills. I blame the government agencies whose best intentions still haven’t led to effective communication … READ MORE. 

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