Beware the internet

Googling (wigs, not medical info!) while at my first chemo treatment

I know it seems strange, me being here on the internet and all, telling you to stay off the internet.  The internet is a wonderful place– I can quickly find information, do some shopping, converse with old friends.  But there is a danger, too.  Anyone can put anything they want on the internet.  So when it comes to important things, health information, say, I’d steer clear of the internet.  Granted, there will be times when you have a question and can’t ask the doctor, or don’t want to trouble her, or you think it’s not important. First of all, bother your doctor!  Making sure you are healthy, that you understand what you need to do, what you need to look for– that’s her job.  But if you’re tempted to look online before the office opens, there are a few thing you should consider.

  • Consider the source: If I’m Googling for something medical, I’m not even clicking on the link if the address isn’t from a reputable source.  I’m talking something like Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson, or NIH. Since I have a science background, I’ll sometimes read an article from a scientific publication, but those can be a little heavy for people who aren’t accustomed to reading such literature.  Plus, any treatments they are studying are likely to be years away from use in the clinical setting, so they’re not all that applicable to someone looking for timely information.
  • Consider the publication date: Even if it looks like a super reputable source, if it’s five years old, the information isn’t really going to be helpful.  Treatments have changed so much in the past few years, and so have the support meds.  Times change, treatments change, experiences change.
  • Stay off the chat groups and blogs: Yep, I’ll say it again.  When you’ve heard one person’s story, you’ve heard one person’s story. So many people who are compelled to share their stories online have had a bad experience. They seem angry, they seem bitter. I’m not going to tell someone how to feel, but I don’t think that feeling angry makes the situation any better, and if you’re trying to keep a positive attitude, you don’t want to hang out with bitter people.  Garbage in, garbage out.

Just this week I was thinking about something that I’d “looked up” right away after hearing about it, but realized that it was in the pre-internet days, and I wondered how I did it.  It’s hard to imagine needing to find information and not being able to find it almost immediately with a few taps of your fingers.  But when it comes to really important health information, think before you Google.  Check the source, the date, and the attitude. If any of the three seem hinky, move on.  There are plenty of other places to get your information.  Like your doctor.

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