Can social media be good for your health?

Is posting or tweeting about your health a good idea? We think so, if you do it right.

Social support has been shown to be a key factor in encouraging exercise and healthy behavior. With geographically dispersed families and friends and extremely busy lifestyles, sometimes social networks like Facebook or Twitter provide that social engagement that would have previously been in person. As a result, people are sharing more and more about their health on social networks, as shown by a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study that asked which health-related activities people had done on social media.

Have you done any of these heath related activities on social media?

Have you done any of these heath related activities on social media?

The study also found that younger people were more likely to share health information through social sites. 80% of 18-24 year olds compared to 45% of 45-64 year olds.

When we were first planning Wellpepper, we thought that sharing physical therapy progress on Facebook and Twitter could have positive benefits for patients like receiving encouragement from friends and keeping people up to date. We wondered whether anyone would actually do it though, until we saw a friend who is a concert photographer with 1,300 friends posting on Facebook about his recovery from a dislocated shoulder. He wanted to let people know what happened, how he was doing, and why they might not see him around for a bit. In return, he received well wishes and support from many people.

In our user testing, we’ve found that being able to share on Facebook and Twitter is a motivating factor. For some, it helps keep them honest about doing their exercises. Also, it enables them to provide kudos to their therapist for the treatment and recommend that therapist or clinic to others. We’ve noticed that some therapists become popular within social groups like amateur teams, and Facebook is another way to share a good recommendation.

Considerations for sharing

Sharing a status update on Facebook is more like whispering to a group of your friends in the back of the auditorium. You’re talking specifically to people who know you, who (hopefully) like you. A few of them will hear what you say, some will respond, some will offer their own stories in relation to what you have shared. You like them too and you probably care what they think about you.

Great advice assuming you’ve set your Facebook privacy options right. Facebook privacy isn’t the easiest thing to set, and it’s changing all the time but you can limit your posts to groups and to your friends only. This means your posts aren’t in the public domain. However, also remember that Facebook does tend to change their privacy options frequently.

Facebook Privacy

Facebook Privacy set to “Friends Only”

So before you go off and share all kinds of information consider this:

  • Who do I want to see it?
  • What do I want to share?
  • Is there some reason not to share this information?

IMG_0248 We think that sharing can signify to your friends that you want their help and support in your recovery and it’s generally a good thing. (Most examples of sharing gone wrong are due to someone trying to do something they shouldn’t, like vacationing in Mexico while on disability leave. We don’t condone this at all at Wellpepper but we are also not going to publish the location you’re doing your exercises.)

The important thing is that you’re in control of whether, where, and what you post. Even if you’re not using Wellpepper, consider posting something about your health to your friends, you might be surprised at the result.

We believe this trend is going to continue, hopefully, with wise decisions about what is shared and not shared. In a future blog post, we’ll tackle the larger issue of healthcare and social media: patient/provider communication.

Posted in: Healthcare Social Media

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