A little learning is a dangerous thing.

Can you be an expert in 140 words?  Yes, but too often that is not the case. In the day and age of holding access to millions of readers in the palm of your hand, too often those 140 characters are used to spread false information that often just "feels" right.  

One example of how social media can offer 140 characters of possible poor advice is found in a research article about sexual health.  It was determined that social media is the key location that connects youth to this sort of information that is not found as readily in other sources  (Byron, 2015).  While this might be an excellent way for a professional to put information out to people about a subject, the same is true for those that don’t actually know what they are talking about.  A false 140-word tweet that sounds like a person knows what they are talking about could be a very dangerous thing to those that read this as gospel. 

Another such example of this phenomenon is more recent concerning the COVID pandemic.  Again, 140 word tweets were being used to send the correct information out to billions of people, and at the same time spread lots of false information as well.  In another article about this exact concept mentioned that often these tweets start with the same wording to gain validity.  In a fake post stating that holding your breath was a valid way to test for COVID early on in the disease cycle, the headlines were frequently started with “doctor/nurse/specialist says…”  (Llewellyn, 2020).  At the end of the day as silly as it sounds to hold your breath to test for COVID many people passed this along as an actual solution to the lack of testing kits at the time. 

While these 140 character headlines often are a way to share great information quickly, it comes with a risk.  What you read isn’t always valid information and it is important to conduct more in-depth research before responding to important life matters in the way that a tweet might tell you to.  Being able to determine the validity of information is a skill that is essential to living in modern age.


Byron, P. (2015). Troubling expertise: social media and young people’s sexual health. Null, 1(4), 322-334. 10.1080/22041451.2015.1110085

Llewellyn, S. (2020). Covid-19: how to be careful with trust and expertise on social media. BMJ : British Medical Journal (Online), 368http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m1160