Instagram Is a Breeding Ground for Bad Health Advice

Figuring out how to be healthy is more confusing now than ever before, thanks to social media. Before you trust anything you read about wellness on your feed, think again.

Social media platforms are rife with biased opinions, marketing ploys, and widespread health misinformation. Why? You can thank the monetization of social media audiences and the echo chamber effect.

The Problem with ‘Influencers’

Instagram is loaded with its own version of celebrities—so-called “influencers” who have massive amounts of followers and make their money by teaming up with companies to create sponsored content that feels authentic. Many of these people—although certainly not all—are trusted as wellness gurus, not because of their credentials, but simply because they are attractive, appear healthy and take pretty pictures.

They are NOT experts! But that doesn’t stop them from recommending products, habits and wellness routines to their hungry followers, who eat them up in hopes that they will make their lives as gorgeous and perfect as the perceived life of the influencer.

Young woman drinking smoothie and taking selfie among nature

But here’s the deal—many of these wellness influencers are just trying to leverage their popularity to make a living, which is why brands will pay influencers to post about a certain product in a way their audience can relate to.

It’s a brilliant marketing tactic—breaking in to large pockets of die-hard followers who will trust almost anything coming from influencers with a perceived authority in wellness. But this is purely advertising. Very little of it is necessarily based in science or reality.

Take the wellness world’s newfound obsession with celery juice, for example. According to Amanda Mull from the The Atlantic, the recent celery juice explosion can be traced back to one man on Instagram—Medical Medium—who created the fad and likely sold a lot of books because of it, though its benefits are unsubstantiated.

While drinking celery juice isn’t a harmful fad to jump on, Mull makes an excellent point. “For those desperate to find affordable alternatives to traditional care for real ailments, these trends can be a harmful distraction from pursuing care that actually works.”

The lesson is: don’t get lost in the Instagram labyrinth of health trends—trust real experts instead.

Young friends vlogger recording a healthy eating video for theirs vlog

The Echo Chamber Effect

Another factor to consider is that your social media platforms are likely an echo chamber of your own thoughts and beliefs.

Consider this: you probably only follow people you like, look up to or agree with. It’s a rare person who follows someone with views that drastically oppose their own. It’s simply not human nature. When wellness information bounces around an echo chamber for too long, it becomes less and less reflective of actual reality.

For example, on Pinterest, 75 percent of pins or discussions about vaccines were anti-vax. That would lead you to believe that most people are opposed to vaccines. However, according to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, 83 percent of Americans understand that vaccines are safe.

The health ideas that our social media reflects likely do not reflect the true popularity of the opinions and definitely do not constitute facts.

The point is, don’t believe everything you see or read on social media. Most of the claims on these platforms are not coming from people with any real expertise, and they often tend to snowball out of control. If you read something interesting regarding health or wellness on your feed, do your due diligence and dig a little deeper into some solid research. It’s the only way to break through the virtual chaos and gain any real knowledge.

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Photos via Getty Images

41 comments

Louise A
Louise A7 days ago

Thank you

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Martha P
Martha P7 days ago

Thanks

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Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hill10 days ago

thanks

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Coo R
Coo R1 months ago

why would one use social media as the first stop for medical advice!
try a medic first.

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Kevin B
Kevin B1 months ago

thank you for sharing

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson2 months ago

Thank you.

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Jan S
Jan S2 months ago

thanks for sharing

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heather g
heather g3 months ago

It always amazes me how most people were never taught to think for themselves.

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Jessica K
Jessica K3 months ago

Really? It isn't? Thanks.

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Thomas M
Thomas M3 months ago

Thank you

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