Fighting misinformation – staying ethical in the time of social mediaFeatured Products News Promotional Features
Posted by: Dental Design 1st May 2023
It’s no overstatement to say that social media has become one of the most powerful tools on the planet. More than half the world now uses social media platforms on a daily basis, with 4.70 billion people using at least one social media platform (59% of the population).[i]
Adoption of social media shows no sign of stopping, either. In 2022 alone, 227 million people began using social media for the first time. Plus, the average time spent on social media per day has averaged at 2 hours 29 minutes, indicating just how significant these platforms have become.[ii]
Why is social media so popular?
There are many potential reasons as to why social media has boomed in use throughout the last decade. Surveys suggest that for many people, the core use of these platforms is to keep in touch with their friends and family. However, other reasons that people stated included staying up-to-date with the latest news, finding interesting content and buying products online.[iii]
It’s worth remembering that social media platforms all behave very differently from one another and host different types of content. This largely influences their appeal to certain people, especially if they want to create engaging content of their own rather than just scrolling through media generated by others. For instance, an individual who is interested in photography may be more inclined to use platforms that allow them to post stationary images such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. On the other hand, someone creating short videos could choose to make their primary platform TikTok.
However, one thing that all of these platforms have in common is that they are utilised by individuals to share information – something that has both positive and negative consequences.
A new source of knowledge
The world is more interconnected than it has ever been before. As such, many people use their social media accounts to share information, giving others around the world an authentic glimpse into certain topics or the chance to discover more about events happening away from home. Though it’s impossible to know the full extent of people who receive their news from social media, surveys have revealed that as much as half the UK adult population use these platforms to stay informed.[iv]
Interestingly, social media seems to also be taking over traditional ways to search for knowledge online. For instance, younger social media users are more likely to use TikTok to search for a topic than Google.[v]
Unfortunately, while there are plenty of positives to social media, there’s a down side, too. Misinformation is rife on these platforms, and as many of them aren’t fact checked, it’s incredibly easy for people to share material that isn’t truthful and which could, potentially, even be harmful.
Social media and dentistry
But what has this all got to do with dentistry? You may already be aware, but the spread of misinformation on social media is now impacting people’s oral health. To illustrate this, you only need to google some of the dangerous “dental hacks” that have appeared on social media platforms. Indeed, there have been videos shared of people filing their own teeth down using nail files and using concentrated bleach and other dangerous substances to whiten their teeth at home,[vi] all of which is highly dangerous behaviour.
If these videos being filmed to begin with wasn’t bad enough, they often go viral – meaning that this harmful content is potentially influencing millions of people, especially if individuals are using social media platforms as their main source of information.
As such, it’s more important than ever before that professionals fight against information. But where to begin?
Battling against misinformation and remaining ethical
Dental professionals can help ensure that patients get real, fact-based information in a number of ways. The easiest is, of course, to engage with patients and to speak about anything they’ve seen online that could be influencing their decisions. For instance, if someone comes into practice desperate for a full set of veneers, ask them why they want this treatment and whether they are aware of what this treatment involves. You may find that they’ve seen something on social media and believe that veneers are their only option, while in reality there could be other treatment routes open to them that are much more suited to their needs.
Another way that dental professionals can make a difference is by creating a social media presence themselves and sharing the facts. You can post about topics you’re passionate about while also correcting existing misinformation that’s circulating, hopefully encouraging people to become better informed.
The British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (BACD) is dedicated to fighting misinformation and providing professionals and patients alike with true, fact-based information on all things cosmetic dentistry. By becoming a member, professionals will learn the latest techniques and have the power to share that knowledge with patients, encouraging truly ethical dentistry. There are various membership levels available for the whole dental team, meaning that everyone can use their knowledge in a positive way.
Be a beacon of truth
For all of its positive attributes, the dark side of social media can’t be ignored. By keeping up to date with knowledge in your field and actively fighting misinformation, you can help patients to avoid potentially dangerous “dental hacks”.
For further enquiries about the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, visit www.bacd.com
Dr Simon Chard
Dr Simon Chard BDS(Hons) BSc(Hons) qualified with Honours from King’s College London Dental Institute in 2012. In 2015 he was voted the Best Young Dentist in London and also the overall Best Young Dentist in the UK at the prestigious Dentistry Awards.
Simon is very passionate about providing beautiful, healthy smiles for his patients and is a big promoter of using digital technology to simplify cosmetic and implant dentistry. Further to this Simon is a director of the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, helping to shape the future of cosmetic dentistry in the UK.
Dental education is something that is a major part of Simon’s professional career and he has dedicated thousands of hours to advanced training from the best dentist’s around the world. Further to this Simon regularly teaches other dentists in the topics of digital dentistry, dental photography and minimally invasive aesthetic dental techniques.
Simon comes from generations of dentists and works in private and mixed practice in London and Surrey.
Co-Founder PÄRLA toothpaste tabs
[i] Smart Insights. Global Social Media Statistics Research Summary 2022. Link: https://www.smartinsights.com/social-media-marketing/social-media-strategy/new-global-social-media-research/#:~:text=More%20than%20half%20of%20the,social%20media%20is%202h%2029m. [Last accessed January 23].
[ii] Smart Insights. Global Social Media Statistics Research Summary 2022. Link: https://www.smartinsights.com/social-media-marketing/social-media-strategy/new-global-social-media-research/#:~:text=More%20than%20half%20of%20the,social%20media%20is%202h%2029m. [Last accessed January 23].
[iii] Oberlo. Why Do People Use Social Media? Link: https://www.oberlo.co.uk/statistics/why-do-people-use-social-media#:~:text=According%20to%20a%20recent%20survey,purpose%20of%20social%20media%20is. [Last accessed January 23].
[iv] Ofcom. Half of people now get their news from social media. Link: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/latest/features-and-news/half-of-people-get-news-from-social-media [Last accessed January 23].
[v] Money Control. Gen Z is replacing Google with TikTok. Why this is a worrying trend. Link: https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/trends/gen-z-is-replacing-google-with-tiktok-why-this-is-a-worrying-trend-9204001.html [Last accessed January 23].
[vi] Dazed Digital. TikTok users are shaving down their teeth with nail files and it’s very bad. Link: https://www.dazeddigital.com/beauty/article/50489/1/tiktok-users-are-shaving-down-their-teeth-with-nail-files-and-its-very-bad [Last accessed January 23].