Friday, December 11, 2009

H1N1 and New Media

Remember the old days when we got most of our health information from a brief television news story or newspaper article or from a friend or even from a doctor?  Buzz back then was people talking in line at the grocery store or at work.

H1N1, the swine flu?  It's all-a-Twitter.

Here's a story out of Boston on swine flue videos posted by the CDC and the impact they are having on viewers.  As the article notes, while these aren't Susan Boyle Youtube numbers, the videos are being seen.  Health officials can't wait for the old, traditional methods, according to one specialist:
“The traditional model of one-way communication, with knowledge developed on high, has been overthrown by new media,’’ said Jay Winsten, a Harvard School of Public Health professor. “We have to be part of the conversation, or it’s going to go on without us.’’
So videos and social networking can find people where they are.  This is an improvement over shotgunning commercials and news stories.  That makes sense, and I assume we're seeing more public knowledge -- and misinformation from the crazy folks on the Internet as well.  That's the good news-bad news scenario here.  A channel so useful to professionals to get out serious information will also be misused by the crazies who see conspiracy in every story.  Health information is a perfect place to study not only what people know but also what people know that's right, or wrong. 

In other words, there will be a growth industry in those who want to study misinformation.  Fact-checking web sites prove this.  It's time now to explore not only who believes obviously incorrect info, but where they got it and how they go about reinforcing those beliefs.  Scholars into selective exposure, attention, and retention can have a field day here, from whether Obama is a secret Muslim to death panels to all the rest.  We know people believe what they want to believe and will alter a news account or other info to fit their predispositions, but never has it been so easy to feed those inaccurate beliefs, or more likely holders of those beliefs will ignore accurate messages.

No comments: