Social Media, Ethics and Health Content

We’ve all been sat down and pained with the oldest lecture in the book- Remembering whats ethical: what’s right and wrong. If you think that’s a lesson in history think again. Sure you know to tell the truth, always do the right thing, never lie and respect your elders… but have you ever thought of this in the context of Social media or health content?

Posting ethical information for your health organization is a key practice in keeping your organization and the content it distributes as professional as possible in order to keep everything ethical.


Dabbling with anything health related is bound to test the boundaries of controversial topics sometimes even without knowing. Take for example the South African brand of the Salvation Army that used the infamous “Dress” to brand its message about domestic abuse. While it was called creative and powerful by some, others took to Twitter to show their disapproval of using brands and culturally relevant memes to hit a sensitive subject such as domestic abuse.

salvation army
Using memes to promote awareness? Not cool.

This is a prime example of where using memes to reference a serious health topic can come off as insensitive- According to Thinkpress an occurrence like this that is linking women’s issues with corporate branding can actually be harmful.

Here’s how to avoid this:

Think before you post!

Before posting something to your organizations account, keep these questions in mind:

  • Will someone find this offensive?
  • Are there hidden messages that might spark debate?
  • Would you be okay with your patients seeing this content?
  • Would your supervisor or boss approve of this content?
  • Is this content tasteful?

While you already have been taught to know your audience, it’s especially crucial to think beyond that audience when presenting your organization and messages on social media. There are thousands of individuals and companies who have access to whatever it is you’re posting on social platforms so it’s important to keep this in mind. If health care providers or patients are seeing negative content being put out there by your organization chances are your organization will not look very appealing.

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So what substitutes as negative? Basically anything inappropriate or controversial a.k.a something that will cause a stir or have potential to make people uncomfortable through insensitive advertising I.E “The Dress”.

Curse words, silly slang and anything sexual are also known to not sit well with audiences in particular adults. All too often it is forgotten that while they aren’t as up to date with all social media platforms, they are becoming more and more involved online, especially sites such as Facebook or Pinterest. According to the Journal of Surgical Education, in 2014 32% of the 996 medical surgeons from 57 different programs in the Midwest had Facebook profiles.

Although media content posted to Facebook can be debated whether or not it is offensive such as displaying alcohol or making sexual body motions, at the end of the day when dealing with health, there is little room for jokes. There is no reason for sexual or demeaning humor, alcohol consumption or politics to get involved.

Remember to hold your own…

The same goes for posting individually. We’ve all been through college, some of us have even gotten the phone call from Dad criticizing your judgement on a post. But we’re taking that above and beyond here and it might be a bit scary.

Ever think that even when you’re not behind the screen, you’re in front of someone else’s?

In other words, even if you’re not physically putting out content through different media platforms, you could be getting attention from someone else’s just by acting unethical in public.

Take this four-year neurology resident who was filmed having a rant at an Uber driver. The video was put on YouTube and titled ‘Drunk Girl Hijacks Uber and Destroys his Car!’ She was soon removed from clinical duties after the video went viral. Not so fun when you’re the butt of the jokes, huh?

Debunk the Junk!

For-Profit orgniazations also have to be careful when posting and we have to be careful about reading those posts because while nutrition facts and posts about healthy lifestyles and fitness routines are usually thought to be from the experts, an article from U.S News says that’s typically not the case.

There are so many health myths out there that it can be hard to trust the beloved internet to help you live your healthiest life, but in most cases it’s best to stick to your physicians and nutritionists in person.

Hope this brings back some memories of being taught how to make ethical decisions because it is very important to remember when it comes to handling health concerns. You’ve chosen a serious field, so let’s take it seriously.

Any stories about content you’ve found unappealing for organizations or stories of your own? Feel free to share!


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