Spending more time than ever online? You’re not the only one. Coronavirus has opened up markets that we never dreamed existed this time last year: whether it’s companies selling hand sanitiser, Mums making masks and posting them to Facebook Marketplace or health bloggers making a killing on ads, almost everyone has played a part in this exponential increase of time spent online. After all, with so many consumer-facing stores closed across the UK, what else is there to do? In fact, through the pandemic, Facebook and Instagram have reported a 70% increase in the amount of time spent on their apps. Naturally, this also leads to an increase in the amount of content being produced and shared, particularly content that feeds into fears over COVID.
With so much content being shared by health and beauty bloggers and in times of a rise in ‘fake news’, who do you believe and where do you take advice from? Here are some tips on how to spot fake health claims online.
1. Keep an eye on language
This is an easy first step: be aware of the language used in the articles. If you read anything about a ‘miracle cure’ or a ‘super easy hack’ and it’s to do with health, it’s probably a lie. Not much in medicine is actually easy: it took GPs a few attempts just to diagnose my psoriasis, so chances are, this article won’t be a miracle cure for Coronavirus.
You should also look out for any jargon-y language that doesn’t have a lot of context. If it sounds over-complicated or unclear, it’s probably because they don’t know what they’re talking about either.
2. Too good to be true? It probably is.
If it feels too easy, or too good to be true, it probably is. No magic pill exists that will solve all your health problems overnight. If you suffer from fatigue for example, it’s possible that a lifestyle change is required to resolve it. Reduce stress, wind down for bed, cut out caffeine. Don’t take a magic pill!
3. Be aware of scare tactics
It’s safe to say that everyone has been terrified of either themselves or their family getting Coronavirus. Content creators play on this sense of fear to get clicks and conversions. A catchy headline can make a lot of money, so be really objective when clicking into an article that you feel is hitting a little close to home.
4. Check their research
First, check whether the article has any citations. Yes? Good! Then, follow them back to the source. By checking the raw data of the study, you can look at the data objectively and decide what you do and don’t believe. It’s also worth checking who the study is funded by – sometimes, corporations can get involved which skews data.
6. Are the images deceptive?
This is particularly important for any article which touts weight loss. A super smart fitness trainer recently showed how easy it is to fake these images. Sophie Kay simply changed the lighting, her posture and added a filter to get her perfect ‘before and after’ fitspo photograph.
We should also be aware of how easy it is to manipulate photographs with apps like FaceTune. While ‘Photoshop fail’ articles are a hilarious read, you should also take note. Often, the fails are massively enhanced versions of mistakes you should look out for when reading weight-loss articles.
While it’s not always easy to spot whether these images are fake, you should be looking at them with a sense of scepticism.
In this crazy times, it’s important to browse with some scepticism. By all means, keep researching how you can improve your health, but follow the above guidelines to keep safe and if you’re really unsure, speak to your GP.