On Tuesday, a new study announced that more people are turning to social media to share their concerns or stories about STDs, which stand for sexually transmitted diseases. The r/STDs community on Reddit currently has approximately 10,000 members.
The problem is that seeking for online diagnoses rather than professional support from doctors would increase the risks of developing the condition.
First launched in 2010, the page for STDs on Reddit has more than 17,000 posts at the time of studying. According to the research, this number considerably went up, from only 8 in 2010 to the current figure.
Most posts usually have real images of typical symptoms around the genitals, such as redness, lumps, and bumps.
Researchers in the study took a random sample of 500 posts. Nearly 60 percent of them are about diagnoses. Around 30 percent of the posts have pictures of the symptoms.
All members of the site would respond to the posts. Most of the requests receive quick replies just in a few hours. More than 80 percent of the studied posts were answered in less than 24 hours.
In spite of the risks of wrong or dangerous medical knowledge, the results of the study would provide doctors with more opportunities to find those patients in need and those who are struggling with the health care system.
“Everyone needs social interactions with other people, and that is what they can find on Reddit,” said the author of the study. “Rather than discouraging people from social media, doctors should find and help them.”
Many experts agree with this suggestion. They believe that physicians and doctors should change their methods to meet the increasing needs of younger generations which often share their sensitive health issues online rather than in a clinic or hospital.
“Why do those people not trust their healthcare providers? Why are they putting their trust on someone that they do not even know and might not have medical knowledge?” said a doctor in New York.
While there are many reliable and authoritative sites to get the necessary information, most of them are not so user-friendly. They contain a lot of medical jargons and terms which are only suitable for academic staff or professionals. That’s why patients turn to social media with a higher level of comfort.
With this study, doctors and healthcare officials should change the current system to make their patients trust them more.