Perceptions on Oral Ulcers From Facebook Page Categories: Observational Study

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Background: Oral ulcers are a common condition affecting a considerable proportion of the population, and they are often associated with trauma and stress. They are very painful, and interfere with eating. As they are usually considered an annoyance, people may turn to social media for potential management options. Facebook is one of the most commonly accessed social media platforms and is the primary source of news information, including health information, for a significant percentage of American adults. Given the increasing importance of social media as a source of health information, potential remedies, and prevention strategies, it is essential to understand the type and quality of information available on Facebook regarding oral ulcers.

Objective: The goal of our study was to evaluate information on recurrent oral ulcers that can be accessed via the most popular social media network—Facebook.

Methods: We performed a keyword search of Facebook pages on 2 consecutive days in March 2022, using duplicate, newly created accounts, and then anonymized all posts. The collected pages were filtered, using predefined criteria to include only English-language pages wherein oral ulcer information was posted by the general public and to exclude pages created by professional dentists, associated professionals, organizations, and academic researchers. The selected pages were then screened for page origin and Facebook categories.

Results: Our initial keyword search yielded 517 pages; interestingly however, only 112 (22%) of pages had information relevant to oral ulcers, and 405 (78%) had irrelevant information, with ulcers being mentioned in relation to other parts of the human body. Excluding professional pages and pages without relevant posts resulted in 30 pages, of which 9 (30%) were categorized as “health/beauty” pages or as “product/service” pages, 3 (10%) were categorized as “medical & health” pages, and 5 (17%) were categorized as “community” pages. Majority of the pages (22/30, 73%) originated from 6 countries; most originated from the United States (7 pages), followed by India (6 pages). There was little information on oral ulcer prevention, long-term treatment, and complications.

Conclusions: Facebook, in oral ulcer information dissemination, appears to be primarily used as an adjunct to business enterprises for marketing or for enhancing access to a product. Consequently, it was unsurprising that there was little information on oral ulcer prevention, long-term treatment, and complications. Although we made efforts to identify and select Facebook pages related to oral ulcers, we did not manually verify the authenticity or accuracy of the pages included in our analysis, potentially limiting the reliability of our findings or resulting in bias toward specific products or services. Although this work forms something of a pilot project, we plan to expand the project to encompass text mining for content analysis and include multiple social media platforms in the future.

Cite As
Simhadri, S., Yalamanchi, S., Stone, S., & Srinivasan, M. (2023). Perceptions on Oral Ulcers From Facebook Page Categories: Observational Study. JMIR Formative Research, 7(1), e45281.
JMIR Formative Research
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