Information is more readily available than ever before with the introduction of various media sources over the course of the last few years. The average person can become fairly informed on any topic of their choice within a few moments of their time and a laptop or smart phone. The main concern we now have is determining if the information is credible.
There are numerous options for finding information on the internet, but this article will primarily focus on social media due to the fact that this happens to be the main source in which many of us acquire information these days. Many of my friends and family members are not interested in reading scientific journals, dense books, peer reviewed articles, etc. I am most certainly guilty of this as well.
The threats of social media
Social media is a unique form of information in itself because more often than not, it is based off of one person's perspective on a topic. Very rarely is the information proofread by an outside source, it does not need to be edited to reflect a company's standards for what it deems to be appropriate, and most importantly it is often opinion-based information. Every post can share as much or as little information as the author chooses, which can be incredibly misleading in a number of cases. Here are some things to consider when deciding on whether or not a post is a viable source of information. This article will specifically focus on those in the health/fitness industry.
If I choose to follow/subscribe to a specific individual on social media, it is because I admire their physique and I'd like to know how they achieved it, they offer a plethora of information, or I just find them to be entertaining. The first thing I would look for to see if the information they are offering me is legitimate would be based off of their experience. How long have they been dieting/training? What kind of certifications do they have? Have they trained others in the past? If so, what kind of results did they achieve?
If the answers to these questions leave you feeling uncertain of the individual's qualifications, then it may be best not to utilize the information they are presenting you.
Social media has opened up a vast amount of opportunity for those with larger followings to earn a good amount of money. This money is more often than not gained from the process of "influencer marketing". Essentially, larger brands reach out to social media personalities in order for them to promote products on their behalf. Noticeable campaigns include fit teas, teeth whitening products, watches, dietary supplements, etc.
I understand that this is a potential opportunity for an individual to work with a brand who has products they commonly use or are curious about, but there most definitely is cases where the products out there that are less than of satisfactory quality. For me, it is difficult to rationalize taking the advice of someone who is working with a brand notorious for selling gimmick products. If the credibility of the products the social media personality is endorsing is in questions, so is that individual's credibility.
A large amount of what someone may or may not post on their social media has to do with what they deem to be acceptable and what correlates with their beliefs. This has become one of the most slippery slopes that social media has to offer because everyone hates to be wrong. This confirmation bias leads to many posting information that may not be necessarily true, but they are not open to any other sources of information because it does not align with what they believe.
It may be difficult dealing with numerous people's opinions that differ from the social media personality, but the failure to acknowledge alternative information leads to a endless cycle of biased single-minded information. Everyone is wrong from time to time. The difference between someone who is worth following/subscribing to and someone who isn't should be their ability to acknowledge the misinformation they have posted and the correction of it. This creates an environment where everyone learns and walks away with a valuable experience. Social media should be utilized as a place to exchange ideas that benefits everyone, not a place where someone repetitiously regurgitates their uncontested beliefs.
(**An opinion-based article by: Ben Tomasek**)