Online support forums such as message boards and Facebook groups are created to provide a community for people who are all seeking support for a problem they all share.
This seems like a safe, warm situation, right?
It ought to be, but as I've noticed over the years, these forums tend to promote ignorance and irrationality, mostly based on faulty logic:
Some members make a ridiculous connection like:
"Who else hates the smell of Chanel Number 5?" "OMG I do too! It must be the X condition."
So these members feed off each other and medicalize the condition by attributing everything, even natural biological processes, to it. This is not supportive and it also distracts from the real purpose of the forum: to provide emotional support and information about assistive devices and social programs and medical professionals who specialize in the condition, etc.
Many members will ask the others for medical advice: "I have X symptom. Is this serious?" Some members remind this poster that the members are not medical experts and advise seeing a professional. But some do give advice, despite having no expertise. Some do give expertise, claiming to be a nurse or whatever. They very well could be nurses, but you should never take someone's word for that over the internet. And anyway, a medical professional can't do much without a detailed medical history, an examination and tests. And some give advice without claiming to be a professional, but do claim some sort of expertise as a patient with experience.
These faulty connections wouldn't bother me so much if the moderators of these forums spoke up against these posts and deleted them. Medical forum MedHelp is a bad offender for this. But the moderators of forums I've visited usually don't. I guess maybe they feel their forum's disclaimer "Not for medical advice. See your doctor." absolves them of responsibility. The worst danger comes when the moderators are just ignorant as the other members and think that this nonsense is actually helpful.
There are also moderators who allow some people to inundate the forum and post totally irrelevant things because these moderators claim that most anything is relevant and supportive.
It's a real shame for people like me who could use REAL support. What I do have in common with these forum members I refer to is that none of us seem to be getting the help we need from our doctors to live fully and actively or information on what to expect in the future or be concerned about, despite our efforts.