What medical advice do you give on Twitter?
I answer general questions. I’d never diagnose someone. Doctors give general health advice in the clinic so why not on social media?
Why shouldn’t people google their symptoms?
There was a study comparing doctors and computers on their ability to diagnose — doctors got it right 77 per cent of the time, computers got it right 30 per cent of the time. But I encourage my patients to read up on their conditions so they can put into words how they’re feeling.
What are the pros and cons of using health-monitoring apps?
Some can also lead to an obsession and taking up GP appointments because an app has told you your heart rate is too high or low. But there are apps that encourage people to stop smoking or cut down drinking, which are useful.
Are you excited about any new types of medical technology?
Pool diagnostics. Instead of one bored pathologist sitting in a lab looking at slides of cell samples and potentially missing a diagnosis, we can share pictures of those slides between 50,000 pathologists who rank it according to what they think the diagnosis is. It will hopefully make diagnoses more reliable.
Are you excited about medical nanobots?
Yes. It means we can target treatments to specific areas. In 50 years we’ll look back on chemotherapy as being quite brutal – it takes its toll and it’s quite destructive. Nanobots can target cancer cells and leave other cells alone, which won’t cause the horrendous side effects.
What concerns are there about young people and social media?
Bullying is a big concern, how much time social media takes up in their lives, how they post pictures and desperately wait for likes. Also, the negative way some people behave on social media. The same concerns adults have.
Can presenting a falsely positive version of your life on social media have a negative impact on mental health?
Absolutely, and it can have an effect on others. We know everyone takes 50 selfies and posts the best one but we’re still influenced by that. We’ll make subconscious comparisons and young people do that even more. It can lead to self-esteem problems.
Have you had many big social media feuds?
All the time. I challenge people who spread damaging misinformation. Anti-vaxxers [who oppose vaccination] send out all sorts of nonsense. I once said breast milk is low in vitamin D and got replies saying, ‘How dare you, why are you against breastfeeding?’ and so on.
What’s been your most disappointing tech purchase?
I once bought a gadget you clip on to the top of a piece of paper and you write with this special pen and it turns all your writing into text on a screen. I bought it, then realised a keyboard can already do that more easily.
Dr Christian’s Guide To Growing Up Online (Scholastic) is out now