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Unsolicited medical advice fucking sucks.

I’ll say it. I’m fucking sick of unsolicited medical advice.

Someone posts about feeling under the weather, and suddenly their comment section is inundated with armchair diagnoses, treatment recommendations, and judgment.

It’s a behavior that seems to have intensified since COVID-19. Every sniffle or cough is met with suspicion and the accusatory refrain of “YOU HAVE COVID!”

But the knee-jerk reaction speaks to a larger issue at play - the erosion of boundaries and the presumption that just because something is shared online, it’s an open invitation for commentary and criticism.

The truth is, when someone posts about their health on social media - whether it’s anxiety, depression, cancer or a case of the common cold - it doesn’t automatically make it public domain for unsolicited opinions. Just as you wouldn’t walk up to a stranger having a conversation in an cafe and start dispensing medical advice (I can only hope) the same courtesy should extend to the digital realm.

Information is constantly at our fingertips - and everyone fancies themselves an expert after a few quick Google searches. The ubiquity of WebMD and online symptom checkers has given rise to a generation of self-styled health gurus, eager to share their wisdom at the slightest provocation. The internet’s main character syndrome means that everyone believes they have been ordained by something higher than themselves to poke their noses into everyone else’s fucking business.

And the unsolicited advice comes with a side of judgment and shame. The implication is that the person is somehow at fault for their illness, that they brought it upon themselves through their actions or lack thereof. This is especially true in the case of COVID-19, where the conversation has become heavily politicized and moralized.

No one chooses to get sick. Illness does not discriminate based on age, race, or political affiliation. It’s a universal human experience that deserves compassion and understanding, not condemnation and unsolicited opinions. You don’t know the context that anyone is dealing with. You just don’t.

The problem is compounded by the fact that social media has created a culture of oversharing, where every aspect of our lives is put on display for public consumption. When people post every aspect of their lives, it’s easy to forget that there are still boundaries to be respected, that not everything is an invitation for commentary.

But when someone writes an update about their health struggles, it’s often a vulnerable moment of reaching out for support and understanding. It’s a way of saying “I’m going through something difficult and I could use some encouragement.” It’s not an open call for medical advice or judgment. Whether you think you’re the caped COVID crusader or not.

Before hitting that reply button, take a moment to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Consider how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of that unsolicited advice or criticism.

If you genuinely want to offer support, do so with kindness and without presumption. A simple “I’m sorry you’re going through this, let me know if there’s anything I can do to help” goes a lot further than playing doctor from behind a screen.

And if you do have medical expertise to share, do so with humility and discretion. Offer resources and information, but make it clear that you’re not trying to diagnose or treat someone over the internet. Encourage them to seek professional medical advice if necessary.

We could all benefit from a little more compassion and a little less judgment in our online interactions. Just because we can share our opinions in someone else’s comments doesn’t mean we always should, especially when it comes to sensitive topics like health.

Resist the urge to play armchair doctor or COVID police. Instead, offer a virtual hug, a word of encouragement, or simply scroll the fuck by.

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