Tl;Dr: Read More Than the Headlines!
Have you shared an article on Facebook or Twitter without actually reading it? I think most of us have! Even non-clickbait-y sources, though, have similarly sensationalistic headlines that do not give a true thesis of the article—that is, the actual intent of the article. A title is meant to capture our attention and draw us in. Some sources are getting better and better at crafting headlines so that they make you feel as if you know the article’s entire perspective before you even read it (politics is often an excellent example of this!). In a world of TL;DR (too long, didn’t read) shares, I really don’t know what nonsense I’m going to encounter next.
I recently wrote an article called "The best exercise’ for asthma?". After finishing this piece, I continued to scroll down my Google News search for asthma, only to find several more highly sensationalist or inflammatory headlines—all in one day of asthma news!
Here’s why you should read more than the headlines
When a title is crafted well, it’s sometimes almost too good—readers don’t feel like they have to read the article (honestly, my basic title above of “read more than the headlines!” may have had this effect on some people—“Oh, that’s good advice, I’ll do that.”
Beyond the “best exercise” for asthma example, here are some reasons to read behind the grandiose statements often seen in these headlines—even of actual science articles.
A small 56-participant study at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland had obese adolescents with asthma eat two specially formulated nutrient bars per day for 8 weeks; the control group received the same nutrition-and-exercise counseling intervention without the supplement bars. Neither group was specifically instructed to lose weight—the group on the supplement bars had improved lung function.
What the headline misses:
Participants were overweight at the beginning of the study and thus more likely to be identified as having nutritional risk factors (high-calorie foods are often lower in nutrients like vitamins). Ergo, not all asthmatics would benefit from nutrient supplements.
Here’s another example:
Asthma can be affected by acid reflux (heartburn), also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In some cases, controlling asthma may be made easier by controlling reflux and taking an antacid more regularly.
What the headline misses:
Asthma is not a gastroenterological problem, and itself is NOT treated with antacids! By overgeneralizing, the headline without the context of the article implies point-blank asthmatics should take an antacid. Which, of course, is totally silly if you don’t have acid reflux or GERD and therefore don’t need one!
Content and context
Content and context exist for a reason—to help us learn and explore the world around us. Next time you’re scrolling by a headline that sounds too simple, dig into the article a bit—you may be surprised what you learn on a variety of subjects, but especially those related to health!
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