Monday, April 7, 2008

Can't Trust Everything You Read on the Internet

A sad but interesting phenomenon we've all noticed in the internet age. People assume whether it is an email chain from Bill Gates and Microsoft a financial payoff only if we forward the email or other offers which are too good to be true that if it is on the internet it must be true.

Take the example of an Oregon homeowner, Robert Salisbury, who discovered strangers taking his belongings after someone but an ad on Craigslist that he had abandoned his home. Mr. Salisbury had no such intention.

  • "I informed them I was the owner, but they refused to give the stuff back," Salisbury said. "They showed me the Craigslist printout and told me they had the right to do what they did."
  • The trespassers, armed with printouts of the ad, tried to brush him off. "They honestly thought that because it appeared on the Internet it was true," Salisbury said. "It boggles the mind."
It recalls articles written about how patients use the internet to research their symptoms and ask their doctors if they suffer from a particular ailment. The challenge for many doctors is that often people don't have the experience or knowledge of whether a particular description truly fits their situation. Many doctors can empathize with this predicament as during medical school we had just enough information but not enough perspective to think we had every single neurologic, dermatologic, and infectious disease, we happened to be studying at the time.

The problem many doctors encounter is that patients simply don't believe what we tell them, because if it is on the internet, it must be true!

From the NY Times - Visits to Doctors Who Are Not in, Ever
From Time magazine - When the Patient Is a Googler

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