Twitter turns out to be a veritable treasure trove of vaccine data

twitter medical resourceVaccines have quelled devastating outbreaks of disease and saved untold lives, but they’re also a controversial topic because some people believe they’re dangerous. High-profile dissenters like actress Jenny McCarthy have linked vaccinations to autism, sparking a backlash against the extremely important public health measure – even though this theory has been thoroughly debunked.

Although people who believe vaccines are harmful have gained publicity over the past few years, their viewpoint counters the vast majority of the medical community. And Twitter can provide a platform for outspoken opponents of vaccination, like this: 

What people say on Twitter about vaccinations matters: Research from the University of Texas suggests that Twitter is a major source of information about vaccination. A study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that the people who were talking about vaccines were more likely to be endorsing them than suggesting they were problematic, although debate did occur. “Overall, 33 percent of the 2,580 tweets were positive regarding vaccines, 54 percent were neutral, and 13 percent were negative. The positive tweets tended to be vaccine promotion messages or comments on effectiveness, and the neutral ones concerned sharing immunization experiences. Negative tweets often consisted of claims about alleged dangers.” 

It’s a good thing that most of the vaccine-related tweets are positive, since that may help offset some of the unnecessary panic about vaccination induced by uninformed anti-vaccine activists.

The paper referenced the fact that Twitter’s users are more likely to substantiate their pro-vaccine information, whereas YouTube anti-vaccine camapaigns tend to lack factual medical support. “One-third of tweets were supportive of immunization and promoted substantiated information, particularly relating to common vaccinations. These findings run counter to other YouTube-focused research on vaccines reporting almost half of content as ambivalent toward vaccination and often in conflict with reference standards.” You can easily find some of these videos with a simple YouTube search.

So overall, people who are talking about vaccines on Twitter tend to use their 140 character space with more of a mind towards the facts than many of the people using scare tactics on YouTube.

This most recent study advised clinicians to prepare for questions their patients have about vaccines based on what they see on social media, but it didn’t draw any conclusions on whether what people see on social media is directly impacting how many people get vaccinated. However, an older study published in 2011 by Penn State’s Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics observed Twitter and found that social networks do have an impact on how many people get vaccinated. The study found that clusters of people with negative opinions can cause their fears to spread to others – which in turn causes spikes in certain viruses. 

This is likely partially due to the timing: There was significant hype around the anti-vaccine movement in 2011, and reform has come quickly. Still, it’s just another example of Twitter’s power over the masses – and another motivator to research what you tweet. 

Emerging Tech

Global Good wants to rid the world of deadly diseases with lasers and A.I.

Global Good, a collaboration between Intellectual Ventures and Bill Gates, aims to eradicate diseases that kill children in developing nations. It tackles difficult problems with high-tech prototypes.
Computing

DLSS is finally arriving in games, but how does Nvidia's super-sampling actually work?

Nvidia's new DLSS technology is exciting, but what is it and how does it work? It's not quite anti-aliasing and it's not quite super sampling. It's a little bit of both and the end results can be impressive.
Product Review

Nokia’s 3.1 Plus is an affordable phone that’s crippled by its camera

The Nokia 3.1 Plus is HMD Global’s first smartphone to be sold by a U.S. carrier in-store. It’s only available on Cricket Wireless right now, which underlines its focus on affordability. Should you buy a phone this affordable?
Mobile

Is the 5G spectrum harmful to our health? Experts say, 'Don't freak out'

There's plenty of consumer anxiety about radiofrequency (RF) radiation, specifically around millimeter waves (mmWave) used on 5G networks, but is it based in reality? We asked the FDA to give us its official view on the subject.
Social Media

‘Instagram egg’ embarks on a new adventure as man behind it is unmasked

The Instagram egg made global headlines recently after it became the most-liked post on the photo-sharing app. The person behind the account has now been revealed, as has his reason for choosing an egg for the stunt.
Social Media

Periscope tool adds guests to feeds so streamers can become talk show hosts

Periscope users can now invite viewers to chime into the conversation with more than just the comment tool. By enabling the option to add guests, livestreamers can add guests to the conversation, in audio format only.
Photography

Crouching, climbing, and creeping, the perfect Instagram shot knows no bounds

Just how far will you go for the perfect Instagram? A recent survey shows just how willing Instagram users -- and Instagram husbands -- are to climb, lie down, embarrass themselves or let their food go cold for the perfect shot.
Social Media

Facebook’s long-promised ‘unsend’ feature arrives. Here’s how to use it

Send a message to the wrong person? Messenger now gives you 10 minutes to take it back. After an update beginning to roll out today, users can now retract messages if they act within the first 10 minutes after sending the message.
Social Media

YouTube boss admits even her own kids gave the ‘Rewind’ video a thumbs down

YouTube's 2018 Rewind video went down like a lead balloon at the end of last year, becoming the most disliked video in its history. And now YouTube's CEO has admitted that even her own kids thought it was pretty darn awful.
Social Media

Snapchat finally recovers from its redesign — so here comes an Android update

Snapchat's drop in users after launching a controversial redesign has finally stagnated. During the fourth quarter and 2018 earnings report, Snapchat shared that the company is rolling out an Android update designed to increase performance.
Social Media

Skype’s new ‘blur background’ feature could help keep you from blushing

Skype's latest feature for desktop lets you blur your background during video calls. The idea is that it keeps you as the focus instead of distracting others with whatever embarrassing things you might have on show behind you.
Social Media

Twitter users are declining but more people are seeing ads every day

Twitter's end-of-the-year report for 2018 is a mix of good and bad news. The good news is that more users are seeing adds daily, the metric the company will focus on moving forward. But the bad news is that monthly active users are…
Web

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.
Computing

YouTube beats Apple, Netflix as the most trusted brand by millennials

The popular video sharing website YouTube climbed up in an annual Mblm study, moving up from third place in 2018 and coming ahead of both Apple and Netflix in final 2019 rankings.