Social Media and It's Effect on Depression and Mental Disorders
I thought I would initiate a discussion today about how we patients use social media. It is a fascinating topic as the world today has drastically changed due to various venues on the Internet to connect with other people.
Belonging to an older demographic, I remember the days before home computers or the Internet. Hey...I am so old I remember Pong. And card catologs. And records...and...but I digress.
But all of a sudden...wham! We have all these social sites...support groups, blogs, Podcasts, iPhone apps, virtual realitity games, facebook and twitter and the list keeps growing.
As a patient...all of this social media can be both a blessing and a curse. You have sooooo much information streaming onto your computer screen in seconds. You can plug in your symptoms in a google search and come up with hundreds...maybe thousands of web pages which will tell you about those symptoms and what they might mean. You can find any number of online support groups for anything common ailments and diseases to the most rare ones. You can sit and chat from the comfort of your own home with someone from Australia or Timbuktu all within a few clicks.
And when you are crying into your Ben and Jerry's ice-cream at 2 am in the morning...you can almost always find someone online...in some part of the world who is willing to listen.
As much as we patients use social media to help us live day to day with our assorted medical conditions, pharma companies are also using social media.
I will be going to one or possibly two conferences where I will be giving the patient perspective of how I use social media to gain information, resources and support for my health conditions but also to give my opinion on how pharma uses this medium.
So I am very curious to hear your opinions and viewpoints on all this.
Here are some questions for you and feel free to answer none, some or all.
These are simply for discussion right here and now.
1. Do you feel that social media (health sites such as Health Central, online support groups, newsgroups, blogs, podcasts, myspace, twitter, youtube, facebook, etc) have been helpful to you in coping with your mood disorder or medical condition? And in what ways?
2. Are there any dangers that you can see with so many people looking to the Internet for help with their medical conditions?
3. What are your thoughts about pharma companies utilizing social media to reach you? Do you mind that hospitals and pharma companies may be on facebook or creating support groups for patients? Do you think in some ways this may be helpful? Or are such efforts distrusted?
4. What is ethical and what is not, in your opinion, with how pharma companies use social media? For example, what about a representative of a pharma company pretending to be a patient and joining an online support group for patients only? What about a health writer who is getting paid on the side from a pharma company to represent their product and does not disclose this information to readers? What is fair and what is just downright unethical?
I have very strong opinions about all of this myself. But I am quite curious to see how you all view these questions from your perspective.