Separating Fact from Fiction on the Internet: How to Sort Through the Hype

By Esther Sears, NP, AOCNP

Have you been tempted to click on headlines and websites that make all kinds of claims promising weight loss, increased energy, or cures for everything from erectile dysfunction to yeast infections?   Read more to learn how to separate fact from fiction when searching the internet.

The Information Era

We live in an age of instant information.  Approximately 80%, or 93 million Americans, have searched the internet for health-related information.  With a few typed words and a “click”, we have endless information at our fingertips on literally any topic you can imagine.  We can instantly find information on anything from how to get the wax out of our ears to how to perform a laparoscopic appendectomy.  Don’t believe me?  Look it up! We can get information on allopathic or homeopathic treatment for cancer or research just about every disease ever named.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation out there on the internet. It’s important to know how to determine which sites are providing health information that is legitimate and based in science.  So where do we start?

Here are 5 key questions to help you decide if the website is a good resource.

  1. Who runs the website? Is it a reputable source? Websites with .gov or .edu in them are more likely to provide solid information without commercial bias.
  2. What does the website say? Do its claims seem too good to be true? Be aware of quick fixes and outrageous claims as they are most likely not based in fact.
  3. When was the information posted or reviewed? Is it up-to-date?  Most solid web sites are frequently updating their sites as new information becomes available.
  4. Where did the information come from? Is it based on scientific research?  Are sources of medical and scientific information cited?
  5. Why does the site exist? Is it selling something?  If so, information presented may be biased in favor of their product.

Learn how to safely search the internet for health-related information.  I encourage you all to become proficient in sorting through fact and fiction on the internet in your pursuit of good health.