Florida doctor debunks COVID myths on TikTok

Videos from Dr. Meghan Martin have received more than 6 million views

ORLANDO, Fla. – With a click, or a tap, TikTok sensation Dr. Meghan Martin travels from the emergency room to living rooms across the country.

(Scroll down for 3 things you can do to fact check that viral TikTok video.)

Martin, otherwise known as Beachgem10, never dreamed of becoming a social media influencer. She dreamed of becoming a doctor.

“I was just kind of goofing off, and then I started picking up more views,” Martin told News 6.

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When her message started to take off, Martin fused the two together to combat misinformation related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“To see someone say like, ‘COVID is not real, the virus is not real, nobody is getting sick,’ is so frustrating. I wanted people to know what is actually happening.”

No medical topic is off-limits for the double-board-certified doctor, specializing in pediatric emergency medicine, who went to medical school at Florida State University, completed her residency at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, and now works at Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Martin breaks down complicated medical terms and topics so that anyone can understand, in videos that sometimes go about as viral as COVID-19 itself.

“The most recent [viral video] I had was a video about talking about the number of kids that are getting sick in Florida,” Martin told News 6 investigator Merris Badcock. “The Delta variant has really affected the pediatric population. Kids are getting sick, kids are in the ICU, we are busy.”

Martin said hospitals are seeing a ton of patients.

“That is being reflected all over the country and [at] children’s hospitals. We are running out of pediatric ICU beds, we are running out of pediatric floor beds and COVID beds. The kids are sick, and so I think that video really touched people feeling like, ‘Hey, now is the time, now is the time to take this seriously.’”

If her job as a pediatric doctor and social media influencer does not keep her busy, Martin’s four children certainly do.

“Kids are germ magnets,” Martin said. “I have four of them! They are constantly all over each other, all the time.”

Martin thinks children should be wearing masks.

“It is one of the simplest mitigation methods that we have to prevent transmission of the virus, especially in the younger kids that are not able to get vaccinated. It is literally the only way that we can protect them from droplets exchanging between each other.”

Martin said for the most part her TikTok connoisseurs are more curious than combative.

“They are coming from a place of fear, and they really want more information. We do not want people to be forced to get a vaccine they are not comfortable with, but we want people to get the information that they need.”

The most rewarding part of her social media career? Changing someone’s life.

“I get those comments almost every single day, and it really is motivating encouraging to just keep teaching and keep doing what I am doing,” Martin said.

So what should you do if you want to share a viral TikTok video? News 6 reached out to TikTok expert Alexa Volland for tips. Volland works for MediaWise, a non-profit fact-checking group.

“People should care, because misinformation, especially concerning coronavirus, comes with real-life or death consequences,” Volland said. “It is not exciting to take the extra 30 seconds to fact check, but it could be saving someone’s life.”

Fact-Check Tip #1

“Tip number one is kind of three tips within itself,” Volland said. “These are three questions that were developed by the Stanford History Education group.

Question #1: “Who is behind the information? Is this person a trustworthy source when it comes to medical information? Or do I just like them as an influencer?” Volland said if you can get to the source of the video, you can figure out if they have an agenda or bias, and check on their credentials.

Question #2: “What is the evidence? This can be kind of tough on TikTok…but people have gotten really creative with evidence. They can use the green screen effects, so they can show the evidence behind them with screenshots of the articles. I have seen a lot of people include text with the sources that they are citing. You want to make sure that they are at least providing you some evidence,” Volland said.

Question #3: “What are other sources saying? This is when you have to do the legwork and get off the app. Do a little keyword search and just see what else other reputable news organizations are saying about the same thing.” Volland also noted TikTok’s own efforts to combat misinformation. If you do not want to get off the app to research a controversial topic, Volland recommended clicking on TikTok’s disclaimer banner at the bottom of the video screen for more information.

Fact-Check Tip #2:

“Do a reverse video search. Most of us are pretty familiar with how to do a reverse image search, but you can do the same for video,” Volland explained. “Download a free Chrome extension called Fake News Debunker. It takes 30 seconds and you can upload the link.” The extension will give you more context to a video including where and when it has been used.

Fact-Check Tip #3:

“The third tip that I have is really easy, but check the dates and times [of videos]. When we are scrolling on the ‘For You’ page, there are not any timestamps, which is not great if you are trying to find news that is time-sensitive,” Volland said.


About the Author:

Award-winning investigative reporter Merris Badcock joined the News 6 team in October 2020. Merris is the recipient of a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award, a Suncoast Regional Emmy Award, four Suncoast Emmy Regional nominations, and two first-place Florida Association of Broadcast Journalists’ Awards.