Manipulating search engines is a big business, though if you aren’t aware you might not realize how much effort and money is put into making sure you see the search results you see. It even holds true when it comes to medical diagnoses. Marketers play off your fears to push their company’s miracle cure or their physician finder app. If you search for headaches you might end up believing not only that you have developed a brain tumor, but also that some miracle herb from the rainforest can cure you. There are a lot of reasons you don’t want to turn to Dr. Google when you’re feeling under the weather.
Eighty percent of internet users search online for their symptoms when they are sick. One out of every 20 internet searches is health related. People spend so much time searching for their symptoms online it’s ranked as the third most popular online activity, but three quarters of the searchers never bother to look at the source of the information in order to determine whether it is reliable. That means the majority of people who are feeling ill are relying on unverified information to treat their symptoms!
It’s no wonder doctors don’t want to hear about your Google search when you finally do break down and make that appointment. A quarter of all web searches for “headaches” led people to a diagnosis of brain tumors as the possible cause. Doctors went to school for a very long time to be able to tell the difference between a normal headache and a brain tumor- don’t show up with your own “medical” research and expect to be taken seriously.
Having all that information at your fingertips at all times of the day and night can be a very bad thing. When you Google your symptoms you often end up with the worst case scenario. It can easily lead to a serious problem- Cyberchondria. People who are already prone to hypochondria can find their symptoms exacerbated when they have the ability to look for the worst thing that could possibly be wrong with them at 2 a.m. Information is addictive- more information is not equal to better information. More often than not your information has not even been peer reviewed by someone who works in the medical field.
You can use Google judiciously if you do so after seeing a doctor. Google your diagnosis and make sure you are looking at current and reliable information. Don’t just believe the first search results that pop up in your feed. Especially if you’re prone to clicking on the “sponsored” posts at the top of your search- those are almost always placed there by marketers wanting to suck you down their rabbit hole and scare you into buying their miracle cure.
Learn more about the problems associated with Googling your illness from this infographic. If you’re sick enough to Google, you’re probably sick enough to go see your doctor. Don’t let yourself fall down the trap of thinking you have a brain tumor every time you get a headache!