Your Brain on Reddit: Exploring Neurosurgical Concerns on a Popular Social Media Site

Jocelyn To, Victoria Jane Horak, Lekha Chirala, John Paul G. Kolcun, Sandi K. Lam, Jeffrey S. Raskin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: Social media has irreversibly impacted global interpersonal connectivity. This study aims to understand how information discussed in condition-specific communities, called “subreddits,” on the major social media platform Reddit, can improve education by medical providers. Methods: The top 50 Reddit posts in each subreddit's “hot” tab were retroactively screened from June 1, 2022. Posts written by those 18 and older who had the condition or were engaging in a better understanding of the condition were included in the analysis. In addition, posts were placed in 1 of 6 categories based on the redditors' primary questions: social advice, health advice, providing health education or suggesting equipment, personal experience/progress, researchers recruiting patients for research, or others. Results: We identified 605 posts within 15 subreddits related to cranial neurosurgical topics including epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, stroke, brain tumors/cancer, seizures, hydrocephalus, cerebrospinal fluid leaks, Chiari malformations, aneurysms, pineal cysts, ataxia, and moyamoya. Asking for health advice was the most common form of information seeking across subreddits (53.6%), specifically treatment-related questions (41.0%). Redditors from r/epilepsy and r/seizures constituted 84.6% of nonsurgical treatment questions relating to antiepileptic dosing or side effects. Conclusions: Cranial neurosurgical disease can overwhelm patients, leaving them with unaddressed questions. Reddit provides anonymity and camaraderie within condition-specific communities not found at the doctor's office. The ease of access to an Internet community may encourage redditors to seek health information online.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e693-e699
JournalWorld neurosurgery
Volume177
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2023

Keywords

  • Cranial
  • Neurosurgery
  • Reddit
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Surgery

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