WebMD Users May Not be Easily Fooled

In accordance with John Oliver’s request to bring back the true meaning of April Fools Day, Rhiza has decided to take the Last Week Tonight No-Prank Pledge. Instead of celebrating April Fools Day with pranks and hoaxes, we decided to conjure up some interesting data visualizations to prove that using data to tell a meaningful story is not a joking matter.

In the spirit of April Fools Day, we decided to find out what US regions have the highest populations of gullible people. After quickly looking through some Simmons Local data, we were able to generate a report of individuals in the US who claim to be easily swayed.

To take it one step further, we were also interested in drawing location-based comparisons between people who are easily swayed and those who are frequent users of a product or a service that has a reputation for being incredibly persuasive. So we turned our attention to WebMD.com. WebMD has received past criticism for persuading users that their medical symptoms could be signs of something more serious, and has even been referred to as a “prescription for fear” by the New York Times Magazine. So the question is: are states with the most gullible populations also the ones with the most WebMD users?

First, we used Simmons Local data and the Rhiza platform to figure out which areas of the country might be the most susceptible to April Fools Day pranks. We then overlaid the data across a map of designated marketing areas (DMAs).

The most significant conclusion is that the south is the most gullible region of the country, while the suspicious people of the northeast claim to be absolute in their beliefs. Areas of the southwest and small pockets in the northwest also rank above the national average.

Next, we used Simmons Local data to determine what DMAs have the most individuals who used WebMD.com in a 30 day timeframe.

The north and south swapped, while the west remained the same. Apparently the easily-persuaded states in the south aren’t as likely to use WebMD to be checking up on their symptoms, but the less gullible folks northeast are the heavy frequenters of the site.

Since the south contains the largest population of people who consider themselves easily swayed, then its low percentage of WebMD users might be a good thing. Otherwise, there might be a huge population of hypochondriacs beneath the Mason-Dixon line. Likewise, perhaps WebMD’s most productive users are in the northeast, where residents might be less likely to be convinced that minor aches and pains are signs of a terminal illness.

Based on the large population of easily-swayed people, one has to wonder if there is an increased number of April Fools Day pranks played in the southern states. If this is the case, then maybe we should all work hard to ensure the No Prank Pledge makes it way to the south in 2016.