The internet is an amazing place. It’s filled with all kinds of information in real time and within seconds. Anyone else remember using those encyclopedia CD-ROMs before the internet to learn about things? Then printing it out and make a binder so you could teach yourself French and oceanography? No? Only me? Ok.
With such an expansive and open market of information, it’s our responsibility as consumers and those who supply that information to make sure that it is credible. Take care as a reader to not accept everything on face value. Find out who is providing the information for those “10 best moves for toning arms” or “THE ONE THING YOU NEED TO DO TODAY TO BE HAPPY.” There’s good and bad info out there and we need to be smart enough to figure out which is which.
The same goes for those of us who provide that information. As bloggers, we have a readership base who comes to us to read about our opinions, what we ate (mmm), and our recommendations. If they didn’t value what we had to say, they simply wouldn’t read it.
It is our responsibility to make sure that any advice or recommendations we make align with our own experiences and qualifications. We owe it to them and we owe it to ourselves to not overstep our bounds. Here’s a couple thoughts I have on when and when NOT to be an expert.
WHEN TO BE AN EXPERT
- The most obvious answer here is if you are educated in and possess a degree or certification in a certain field (e.g., personal training, diatetics, neuroscience, etc.)
1. When there’s no process to becoming one
Let me clarify. By this I mean it is possible to be considered an expert in something where there is no clearly defined educational or professional system to define it.
Take social media, for example. There is no degree or certification in social media (correction: apparently there are some online ones??), but there are clearly people who know what they are doing and can offer advice on best practices in the industry. You’ll often find these people speaking at conferences and workshops based on a group consensus that they have important information on the subject.
If you have a proven track record of success with repeatable steps that can be generalized to others, I’d consider you an expert (feel free to disagree).
WHEN TO NOT BE AN EXPERT
1. A personal training client (or anyone) asks you for detailed nutrition information or meal plans
Unless you are a registered dietitian in addition to being a personal trainer, you are not legally allowed to prescribe meal plans and offer in-depth nutritional consults. There is basic nutritional information that you are allowed to share with clients, but beyond that they should be referred to someone who has spent years of their life specializing in the subject.
2. When talking about your own situation in relation to everyone else’s
Just because you cured your depression “with exercise and light therapy,” it doesn’t mean that this approach is universal to everyone suffering from depression. Be careful in generalizing your experiences to an entire group of people. You can certainly share your story, but make sure to state that these are YOUR results and they may not work for everyone.
For example, I’m certainly an expert in my own experience with addiction and recovery, but I can’t speak on behalf of the entire community of addicts. I can simply state the steps I’ve taken and the results I’ve gotten. Another addict following my path may have a different result.
Another HUGE one is having children and being a parent. There are so many people willing to shove their “advice” down your throat about the correct way to do something without any consideration of the other person’s parenting style or plan. Props to you parents — it’s a tough one out there!
3. Prescribing training and exercise plans if you’re not certified
I see a lot of people who are exercise enthusiasts posting workout plans or routines without holding any kind of certification except for the “I love to workout!” certification. It’s true that you can be self-educated and know a lot about exercise without getting certified AND that those people who do hold certifications may not be the best trainers. The difference is that even if they’re not the best trainers for whatever reason, they still were required to get CPR certified and learn extensively about the human body and movement systems.
I never felt comfortable writing about specific workouts on this blog until I had my certification. Even though I knew a lot, I knew that personally I wouldn’t want to follow a plan from just anyone, which is what prompted me to get my certification.
These are just some of the examples I came up with, but I’m sure there’s many more. Make sure to share them in the comments!
Also, if you haven’t already, head on over to my previous post to enter the NOW Foods giveaway before it ends next week. There’s A LOT of stuff!
Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud!
- Any other examples of when you should or should not be an expert?
- What do you think makes an expert?