I participated in Blog Action Day last year and wrote about food (and diabetes). This year the theme is “The Power of We” so I think it’s high time I talk about the power of this online community that I’ve joined.
The DOC (which stands for Diabetes Online Community) in my opinion starts with Twitter (because that’s where I found them) and branches into blogs, Facebook pages and pretty much the entire internet. The DOC is a powerful, large (so large I don’t even know how many of us there are!) group of people living with all types of diabetes (there’s more than just two types and the DOC taught me that!).
When I’m asked about the value of social media, I find myself consistently coming back to the word “community.” In our online age, community isn’t physical anymore, it’s digital. When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I felt alone. I didn’t really know anyone else who had type 1 diabetes and I was being given advice and told stories about people with type 2 diabetes. Although both types cause high blood sugar, they have different treatments, different needs and I felt like I needed to “meet” someone who had survived those first few months of carb counting, self-injecting and handling the new lifestyle that I was having to adjust to. I turned to Twitter and found a vast community of individuals with diabetes and caregivers who helped me find the resources, encouragement and outlet that I needed.
In the past year that I’ve been navigating life with a chronic condition, I’ve found that I turn to the DOC with questions and support. They’re always there. In the middle of the night when I’ve woken up with low blood sugar, a brief tweet finds me someone who is either awake in another time zone or up dealing with the same issues. I get digital high fives when something is going well. But most importantly, there are people that understand what I’m dealing with.
I am a part of this community and I’m not just sucking the support, encouragement and information out of it, I can turn around and give it right back to others who need it. It gives me great joy to congratulate a friend (they’re my friends now) on a stellar a1c or answer a question about my insulin pump for someone who is doing research.
Without the internet, I would be in dire need of a support group, but with the speed my life moves, I wouldn’t get what I needed from occasionally attending meetings with other Type 1 patients. My support group is online, all the time. The DOC has been a powerful source of support but also a force of people communicating to healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical companies what it’s like to live day in and day out with a chronic condition, and how they can improve their care with that information.
Online support and the powerful “we” is not limited to those with diabetes or chronic health conditions, there’s an online community out there for whatever you’re looking for. You are not alone.