How much health info should you share on FaceBook?

By Laura Bergells on

Stop discussing your family’s medical conditions on social media channels like FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Stop blogging about your children’s illnesses. Please.

You want support and information?

Pick up the phone and talk one-on-one with medical professionals. Join a confidential support group. Discuss your concerns over dinner with your family and loved ones. Get counseling.

Sharing Health Info on FaceBook

FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are completely inappropriate communication channels to bandy about personal medical and health issues. Personally, I don’t want to hear about your teen daughter’s battle with depression, drug addiction, and bulimia. It’s none of my business. Telling stories about your grandmother’s dementia helps you deal with caretaker stress — but probably at the expense of her dignity and privacy. Pimping out your baby son as the face of a chronic disease — not to help him personally, but to “raise money to find a cure for all those afflicted” — is particularly despicable.

Knock it off.

On a certain level, I understand how tempting it can be if you are going through a difficult time with an ailing family member. You want to reach out and feel the love. But laying out others’ illnesses (or your own!) on social media channels to get pity, support, sympathy, or money from strangers and near-strangers can seriously limit opportunities.

Let me summarize a few stories I’ve heard from employers. The stories, in essence, go like this:

“We had a great job candidate. We did a search on FaceBook. Found out through a family member that he has diabetes / arthritis / cancer / high cholesterol / etc. We know this shouldn’t matter, but we also know that we need to keep our health insurance costs down. A well person is likely to be more productive than a chronically ill person. But we don’t have to tell him that. We can just say: ‘Sorry. We found another candidate that more closely met our needs.'”

It’s pretty to think that we have laws and policies to safeguard against this kind of discrimination. It’s wonderful to believe the hiring managers are nice people who can be counted upon to rise above such obvious prejudices. It’s also a sad reality that getting health insurance or even a job is a struggle for many in the United States. Why make it even more difficult?

I don’t want limit the career opportunities of the people I love. I don’t want to narrow their choices for accessing health care. And I don’t want to put their private matters into the hands of strangers so that I can selfishly squeak out a little sympathy for myself. How about you?

How much family health information do you share on FaceBook, Twitter, and LinkedIn? What’s in it for you?