Academic journal article Journal of Distance Education (Online)

Social Media and Health Education: What the Early Literature Says

Academic journal article Journal of Distance Education (Online)

Social Media and Health Education: What the Early Literature Says

Article excerpt

Abstract

Social media allows for a wealth of social interactions. More recently, there is a growing use of social media for the purposes of health education. Using an adaptation of the Networked student model by Drexler (2010) as a conceptual model, this article conducts a literature review focusing on the use of social media for health education purposes. The review found evidence of the phenomenon, allowing for a discussion surrounding the implications of social media with a health education perspective. Major benefits and risks of social media from a health education perspective are also discussed.

Résumé

Les médias sociaux permettent la réalisation d'une multitude d'interactions sociales. Plus récemment, on constate une utilisation croissante des médias sociaux à des fins d'éducation à la santé. Le présent article passe en revue la littérature en mettant l'accent sur l'utilisation des médias sociaux à des fins d'éducation à la santé et emprunte, comme modèle conceptuel, une adaptation du modèle des étudiants en réseau (Networked students model) de Drexler (2010). La revue de littérature a démontré l'existence du phénomène et a ainsi donné lieu à une discussion des implications liées aux médias sociaux dans le contexte de l'éducation à la santé. On y discute également des avantages et risques majeurs liés aux médias sociaux dans le contexte de l'éducation à la santé.

Introduction

While the arrival of Web 2.0 with its many opportunities for users to connect, exchange information, and socially engage has revolutionized our lives, it has also generated new challenges. One area in which the use of social media requires particular judiciousness is health decisions. As we know, poor health decisions based on misappropriate or wrong information put a person at risk for emotional, physical, and other harm. This noted, there is little doubt that social media is here to stay and that an increasing number of health consumers are using social media to make decisions about their health. This paper is an effort to understand this trend as well as explore the relationship between social media and the information we access through it to make choices related to personal health.

In this literature review, 12 articles published between 2008 and 2010 are examined. They include research studies, commentaries, and a theoretical paper about the use of social media in relation to health. A conceptual model called the Networked Student Model by Drexler (2010) was used as the basis of inclusion in the review.

Papers were analyzed for four general messages: who is using social media for health purposes, the impact of social media on health-oriented learning and in professional practice: how social media is being used informally for health education purposes, and how social media is being used formally for health education purposes. Findings are discussed in relation to the above messages. Benefits and implications for educators and learners are also presented. Last, in re-exploring key ideas from the articles that comprise this literature review and considering other ideas found in papers that likewise look at the social media phenomenon but do not fully meet the criteria of Drexler's model (2010), the paper closes with some thoughts about landscape of social media, education, and health both today and in our immediate future.

Purpose of this Review

The purpose of this review was to conduct a limited literature review on the use of social media for health purposes. In particular, the researchers looked for evidence of the phenomenon as well as instances of informal and formal health-based learning supported by use of social media.

Conceptual Model

The conceptual model used to select papers for inclusion and review is an adaptation of the Networked Student Model (Drexler, 2010). Drexler suggests that the Networked Student participates in several activities: the act of making contacts with others, information management, synchronous communication, and really simple syndication. …

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