What’s healthy about social media?

Source:  The ALS Association Photo Library

Source: The ALS Association Photo Library

Social media is crazy . . . it’s so diverse and used for so many different reasons.  It is responsible for establishing friendships (and sometimes enemies), exposing people to new hobbies and interests, and even instigating the civil wars of the Arab Spring!  Wow – that is a huge responsibility for social media to carry!  When it comes to health, not all social media is created equal.  Below, I want to go through my experience with health and the different social media sites.


Facebook was probably the best social media site for health.  There were plenty of sites to visit, they were easy to find, and the information they gave seemed reasonably well researched.  I particularly liked the page Healthy and Natural World.  It had home remedies and good, basic, information regarding foods one should avoid, and foods one shouldn’t avoid.  Overall, it was easy to navigate, the various articles were easy to find and read and well written.


In contrast the Facebook, FOURSQUARE may have been the least useful of the sites for gaining information about health.  If one conducts a search on health, FOURSQUARE is clearly mostly concerned about connecting the users to retail locations either specializing in healthy foods or exercise, etc.  One isn’t going to gain much information in regards to their health.  But having said that, if you are in the market for a health food restaurant or grocery store, FOURSQUARE maybe the best place to start.

Meetup logo-2x

Meetup is, again, more like FOURSQUARE, in that one would be coming to this site specifically for getting into a group interested in, say healthy living.  One may not gain much information about health and healthcare, but they may be able to find a group of runners, hikers, or cyclers who can help one keep fit.  For a lot of people, having a buddy to go running with may be all they need to keep them motivated and regular in physical activity.  So while Meetup may not provide “information”, it may provide the necessary medium (people, place, and time) in order to keep fit.


Once again, this is much more like Facebook, in that there are many easy to find and navigate pages focused on health, improving health, healthcare, etc.  If I had a quick question about what type of exercise is best for weight loss and weight training, Google+ will not disappoint.  But the neat thing about Google+ is if I also want to find a cycling group in my local area, a quick search will likely result in a useful search result.


All in all, to me it seemed Facebook and Google+ were the most useful places for health related social media.  FOURSQUARE was likely the least useful as I think you could find similar things on Yellowpages.com, Yelp.com or other directory services.  Meetup has a very specific task and does a good job of accomplishing that . . . and it’s novel.  There were a few things I wanted to discussed based on this week’s interview assignment.  My interviewee used social media for health in ways I hadn’t considered . . . detecting an epidemic on a small scale.  She used Facebook to see if other kids in her son’s class were experiencing symptoms similar to her son, to see if an “epidemic” were brewing in the class.  This seems like a very suitable way to use social media – use the crowd to create a disease pathway.

I also found something in “Here comes everybody” quite interesting . . . this concept of being famous.  I have seen enough YouTube channels and Facebook profiles of people are trying to become famous.  It is so interesting to me to think of fame as those who have more connections going in than going out.  Thinking of Oprah Winfrey replying to all her friends’ Facebook posts seems quite odd to me, but seeing these self-proclaimed up-and-coming social media’ites trying to display their fame is also odd.  They try to convince people they are important based on the posts they have and the videos they create.  If they truly were famous, they wouldn’t need to act famous . . . they would just be famous.  And, being that I am not one to be particularly interested in famous people, I find their acts disingenuous and useless.  They come on social media to be famous, rather than to just share in the wealth and utility in social media.  This is perhaps why I have a negative perspective of social media (which yes I am working on).  I shouldn’t allow those who use the media for self-gain to tarnish the utility of social media.  While many now abhor the results of the Arab Spring, no one can argue that the power of social media is INTENSE! because of examples like that.  I remember growing up as a Syrian immigrant in America and asking my parents, naively, “why don’t the Syrian people just rise up against their government?”  My youth did not allow me to see the prior failed attempts and while this last uprising seemed to be the answer, it too has not seen success.  The power of social media is that it brings people together – lots of people!  But what those people do when they meet, is up to that group of people. . .

Thank you!



4 thoughts on “What’s healthy about social media?

  1. Thanks Chafeek! I really liked your summary and opinions of all the sites and which you think are the most useful in different circumstances! The concepts from “Here Comes Everybody” was also great- I think being famous can be good and bad on social media! Maybe we can encourage more celebrities to post information about health to educate more people.

  2. Hi Chafeek, great summary. When I think about people using social media for health, in my mind it is more through unconscious browsing and carefully directed ad campaigns to the reader. Social media doesn’t strike me as a great source for people to search about specific health topics. If it were me, I would just assume use a search engine to find the article or study of my choosing. However, for connecting with others that share similar interests, Facebook and Meetup in my opinion are the most useful. While Meetup is more offline/action oriented, Facebook also offers the ability to host and attend events.

    I’m curious how you use social media as a health practitioner. Your interviewee seems to have some novel ways of using social media. Good examples of the endless possibilities.

    • I think you bring up a good point. I was looking at it from a different perspective – using social media as a source of information. As a health practitioner . . . I don’t use social media . . . my interviewee definitely had a novel idea of how to use social media which impressed me.

  3. Great post Chafeek!
    – Love the title; nice little word play, really draws me in as a reader
    – Great use of graphics, and staggering them throughout your post
    – I really like the language – personal style, witty, engaging and from your first person perspective. Makes it very easy to relate to
    I think I have similar preconceived misgivings about social media as yourself; the fact that it allows anybody to mass disseminate information is in one way its power in a good way, but can also be a major negative – I find myself thinking “who actually reads this rubbish??!!” a lot of the time, and then hate that my morbid curiosity to find out what mighty ridiculous thing someone has written about, has resulted in 1 extra reader or view… something I can not take back! I just fed the beast!
    Anyway I digress.. great post chafeek! I can really hear your voice in this 🙂

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