| Hair Loss

TWITTER AND FACEBOOK ARE GREAT STARTING POINTS TO HELPING YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR HAIR LOSS.

Connecting with other hair loss sufferers can be comforting and fun. But experts warn: Don’t self-diagnose based on what you read online!

When Mary Pomerantz began to notice her hair thinning around the time she turned 46, she didn’t tell her best friend, or ask her sister, or discuss it with her husband or even make a doctor’s appointment. She did the quickest, easiest thing to do when you have a question about anything: hit the Internet! In fact, it’s a given that once people in need of information have used Google to search on the terms and read the top few listings in the search, they will then turn to the social media for real people’s opinions or discussions about their subject.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2003 by the Department of Health Research and Policy at Stanford University School of Medicine, which examined use of the Internet and e-mail for health care information, found that only 40 percent of adults used the Internet to gain health information in the earlier part of the decade. Doctors are certain this statistic has risen, and Dr. Robert M. Bernstein, M.D., F.A.A.D., clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia University and hair transplant surgeon and director of Bernstein Medical Hair Restoration in New York City, says that’s why he maintains an online presence. “People are interested in it. They want to talk and learn, and I’d rather be online to provide credible information than ignore how people are looking for information about hair loss today.” But, it’s important not to rely on information you may gain online and definitely to see a doctor and a hair loss treatment specialist, because hair loss is a time-sensitive issue. “If you’ve wasted your time on treatments that are not appropriate for your condition, you have delayed treatment that could have helped your condition,” advises Dr. Bernstein. “Once hair is gone, it’s gone.”

According to MarketingCharts.com’s “Top 10 Social-Networking Websites & Forums,” Facebook was in the No. 1 spot in November 2009, garnering more than double the visits of the No. 2 site, MySpace. ComScore Media Metrix has reported that 45- to 54-year-olds are the top demographic driving most of the traffic on Twitter, with the number of younger users (25-34) in a close second place. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a whopping 39 percent of status update service (Twitter, etc.) users employ four or more wireless devices to update their status and keep in touch. Despite a growing percentage of online Americans apparently flocking to Twitter, an August 2009 study by Pear Analytics found that approximately 40.5 percent of messages published on Twitter are “pointless babble.” That’s why health and hair loss professionals alike stress it is very important to read carefully about who and where you are getting your information from when using these sites to talk about your hair loss with others.

“CREDIBLE SOURCES” OF HAIR LOSS TREATMENT INFORMATION

Dr. Bernstein has both a Twitter page and a Facebook page dedicated to his practice. “We do it because people use these services to gain information and we want to provide credible information,” he says. Dr. Bernstein cautions that credible information can be hard to gain from 140-character tweets, whereas a Facebook page can provide a little more detailed information. “We understand its limitations — some chats are superficial — but we can give some accurate information. Out-of-context information can be misleading, so we always want to drive people with hair loss questions to a place where they can read information on hair loss that is accurate and in context.”

The United States Library of Medicine suggests that Internet users look for credible sources of information, such as licensed doctors, government or educational health organizations, current university or medically reviewed research and medical journal articles. Always read the “About us” page at the Web site of any doctor or organization you are interacting with on Twitter or Facebook.