When It Comes To Plastic Surgery, Online Resources Are Off The Mark

When It Comes To Plastic Surgery, Online Resources Are Off The Mark 

According to several recent studies, online resources are off the mark when it comes to plastic surgery. The information is often misleading, inaccurate, or unintelligible. Take your pick of who to blame: Google and Facebook? Fake news stories on Facebook reportedly trended higher than real ones leading up to the last presidential election.

How It's Affecting Public Perception 

A recent analysis found that Twitters posts with the hashtag: #plasticsurgery were dominated by celebrity plastic surgery gossip. Is it consumers, overly trusting when it comes to online information? Researchers from Stanford University found a “dismaying” widespread inability to distinguish between fake news and real news. Or is it web designers, who code for Google rankings more than understandable and useful consumer information?

The answer, of course, is all of the above. Social media and search engines are in the business of capturing our attention in order to expose us to advertising messages. What trends counts more than what’s true, and content that’s outrageous outranks the authentic if there’s a buck to be made. 

Doctors Are Getting More Proactive 

Plastic surgeons, often capable of technical and artistic brilliance in the operating room, have apparently been slow to engage in similarly meaningful ways online. Given that almost every patient now uses the internet to gather pre-consult information – and most often as their first search method – we need to do better. The authors of the Twitter study concluded that Twitter "may be the best-suited platform to fulfill the role of public education and engagement." But we don’t even have a handle on our own “handle” since much of the content hashtagged to plastic surgery is not from board-certified plastic surgeons. If we are to be better managers of the message, we need to make our social media efforts interesting and informative. And understandable: a measure actually called “gobbledygook analysis” found most plastic surgery websites too difficult to read.

While plastic surgeons weren't quick to embrace social media we are learning now that the best way to fight back against bogus content is to get on the bandwagon ourselves! As a group, plastic surgeons certified by the Amercian Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) pride ourselves in making sure all the information we put out on social media comes from credible sources. We certainly aren't objecting to celebrities announcing they've had plastic surgery; in fact, we are proud when they help to remove the shroud of secrecy. We just want to be sure consumers are getting reliable information. 

What You Should Keep An Eye Out For 

As a consumer, be prudent about what sources you are using to educate yourself on plastic surgery. For example, if you see the word "promoted” or “sponsored", it's not news -- it's 'paid' promotion on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and so on. Verify the sources if you can (my references below.)

So Kaley Cuoco and Iggy Azalea, we are thrilled you are out 'on blast' advocating plastic surgery. It's that kind of confidence we want to instill in all of our patients. Just don't forget to look for ABPS certification when researching #plasticsurgery.
(BTW follow me on Twitter @doctorbaxter)

Montemurro P, Porcnik A, Hedén P, Otte M. The influence of social media and easily accessible online information on the aesthetic plastic surgery practice: literature review and our own experience. Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, April 2015.
Ricci JA, Vargas CR, Chuang DJ, Lin SJ, Lee BT. Readability assessment of online patient resources for breast augmentation surgery. Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, June 2015.