Libraries. Encyclopedias. Professors. Doctors. Pre-Internet, these were our top sources of information. If we wanted answers, this is where we looked.
Fast-forward to modern times. With access to pretty much everything now at our fingertips, we’ve shifted our focus. The Internet is our main (and sometimes only) source of information.
We’re almost constantly connected. More and more of our days are devoted to screen time. Did you know we now spend an average of four hours a day on our phones?
What Are We Looking For?
One of our most time-consuming online activities is social media. Roughly 30 percent of the time we’re online is spent ond these platforms. We’ve integrated them into our days so significantly that the average person will now spend more than five years of their life on social media. (Teens in particular spend up to nine hours a day using these sites.) That’s more time than we devote to eating and drinking, more time than we spend grooming ourselves, and more time than we spend socializing (you know, that in-person interaction we used to do).
What exactly are we doing during these hours online, sifting through social media? Mostly, we’re searching for information and entertainment.
As a result, we’ve created forums that provide places where people with common interests can go to gather information specific to their activities.
Forums sound like a great idea, right? Who could complain about all these these sites providing helpful information and community resources? Surely there’s no harm in that.
Not so fast…
A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Forum
Specifically speaking, drug forums might not be the helpful bastions of information they’re billed to be. Though the forums are used to share both science and experience-based information drug use, a bulk of site visitors are seeking advice on how to optimize drug use (get the “best” high), avoid side effects of withdrawal, and generally “maximize the experience of intoxication.”
The thing is, any Joe Somebody can get on these forums and dish out advice. It’s typically based on their personal experiences with drugs, which could drastically vary from what someone else might experience. The forum then becomes a base for possible deadly misinformation.
Researchers were curious about the effects drug forums have, so they examined discussion threads from an online drug use forum and analyzed the outcomes. They uncovered some pretty disturbing trends:
- These forums often foster dangerous substance use, as they encourage experimentation. They shift the relationship with potent drugs from necessary medication to using the mind and body as a personal lab for medical experiments. (User1978 tried this, so let’s see what happens when I try it…)
Researchers noted that, while they might be designed to prevent harmful drug use and exchange knowledge, the sharing practices of drug forums “may lead to overdoses and other risky behavior, and thereby contribute to increased harms related to non-medical use of prescription drugs.”
- Another danger of the drug forums is they normalize this hazardous behavior. Prescription drugs are so common in our daily lives that reading about others abusing them starts to seem “normal” or “okay” too. When the truth is, it’s deadly.
We tend to put more weight on the validity of online information than we should, but here’s something important to keep in mind: Just because someone said it in a forum, doesn’t make it true.
Additional Reading: 7 Things You Don’t Realize About Teenage Drug Abuse…Until You’re an Adult
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