I love the Internet. I spend many hours per day using it to search for answers to questions both mundane (those shoes come in my size?) to the profound (how can I improve vaccination rates in my area?). Because I spend a large portion of each day web surfing, I consider myself adept at the whole process.
Enter Pinterest. My Internet awesomeness just exploded in my face. What is this place? To best explain my confusion, please see the image confronting me when I first enter Pinterest:
Information about…well…what exactly? I think its jewelry, home decor, books, shoes. I don’t understand why its there or the theory behind the organization. I’m just sort of smacked with a bunch on unrelated pictures, most of which hold no interest for me. Is this Pinterest’s assumption of what interests me?
I tried another tactic. Instead of letting Pinterest try to tell me what I might like, I used the search function. Because this is a public health course, I naturally tried to seek out health related information, and because my passion lies in vaccination, I naturally searched for “vaccines.”
Oh brother. See below:
In case, it is unclear…every single one of the “pins” in this screenshot (full disclaimer, it is only the top half of the page) is “anti-vaccine.” Why I choose not to vaccinate. Vaccine failures. Vaccine conspiracy theories. Wow. This is not exactly an advertisement for Pinterest’s ability to present accurate public health information.
This was a disheartening first foray into using Pinterest as a public health tool. But that’s an important thing to realize: Pinterest is open to anyone and anyone can create their own boards based on their opinions and likes. That there happen, apparently, to be a lot of anti-vaccine types using Pinterest is not the fault of the site. People pin what they want to share with others.
That is sort of the beauty of Pinterest right there. You create the board you want. Like-minded folk may follow you and you can begin sharing important (accurate) information with each other. So while Pinterest fails as a general public health search tool (vaccines are not a conspiracy between the FDA, the CIA, and pharmaceutical companies). It can be useful to quickly locate news articles, fact sheets, and other information for use in other formats.
With a little more in-depth looking, I was able to find a board chockfull of really interesting and accurate information on vaccines and vaccine-related news:
I’ve pinned several of these to my own board on vaccines. I can later return to my board and peruse each pinned article in more detail when I have the time. Having my own board full of links to helpful vaccine advocacy sites? Now that is helpful.
My final assessment of Pinterest. Use with caution. Create your own board where you can store accurate information for use in other, slightly more user-friendly formats.