There is no doubt that social media has become an integral part of our lives. Every spare moment we have, we spend glued to our smartphones, playing games or checking Facebook or Twitter. Recently, there has been plenty of negative talk about our addiction to social media. Things such as trolling and cyber bullying have tainted this little marvel of a gift. But what the media doesn’t focus on are the benefits of online support groups on social media for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes. Sites like Facebook and Twitter – not to mention this blog – bring people together to share their experiences and vent their frustrations.
After I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, my diabetes educator recommended a site called MyDiabetes – a site for all young adults with D to come together in a supportive community. It wasn’t long before I joined their Facebook group. To my surprise and delight, this forum consisted not just of young people with D from all over Australia, but even parents of little ones who face the same challenges. Hearing stories from other people can be both touching and empowering. It is heart breaking to hear parents ask for help because they are unsure know how to handle a child with D. As youngsters, we don’t often realise that we may be more of a troublemaker than the average kid. But at the same time, some kids with D are extremely mature for their age because of the discipline that is required to manage their condition.
The online diabetes community has also been a great place to learn tips, tricks and advice from others who face similar challenges. We chat about things that only other people with D would understand. Be it the frustrations we experience with roller coaster blood glucose levels, traveling and exercise, to funny stories with pump lines being caught on doors, trying to test with blood from cuts, to different websites that sell medical ID bracelets!
More recently, I was persuaded to delve into the Twitter-sphere to participate in #OzDOC – a diabetes online community chat for Aussies. For one hour each Tuesday night, we have a discussion on particular topics. So far we have covered topics ranging from exercise to accessing health care professionals. Even amidst all the serious chatter, we joke around, have fun and share funny stories (those of us with D generally have a wicked sense of humour!).
The structured discussions are extremely helpful as sometimes I don’t even realise that the advice given was exactly what I needed. Sometimes it answers questions I didn’t even know that I had (maybe people with D are telepathic too?). I am yet to come away from a session having not learnt something new or having not enjoyed myself. Occasionally, we have guests joining us from overseas and it’s great to hear their experiences with a different health care system altogether. Surprisingly, experiences also differ greatly between states within Australia. Hearing all of these makes me feel thankful to be in Victoria and to have such a great health care system! Sure, improvements can always be made, but at the end of the day I’m grateful for what I have.
Last Tuesday night’s opening question on #OzDOC was ‘Who do we encompass in our diabetes healthcare professional team?’ It was fantastic to see that people are incorporating social media networks in their teams for social and mental wellbeing. Together with our family and friends who give us their continuous support everyday of our lives, these networks make living with D that much easier. Thank you technology!
Ashley Ng, of Caufield, is 22 years young. She is currently halfway through her honours year at Deakin University looking at the effects of nutritional supplementation in the healing of diabetic foot ulcers. Ashley also works at the university as an academic support worker and student ambassador on the side. In her spare time (of which she has little) she enjoys driving out to national parks for walks and taking part in a variety of sports. She also plays clarinet in the Western Region Concert Band. Ashley was diagnosed with type 2 (MODY) diabetes in 2009.
Oh, and did we mention her own rocking blog?
We’ve put together a little slideshow of our favourite tweets from Tuesday night, narrowed down from total of about 500 tweets! The #OzDOC tweetchat is on Tuesday nights starting at 8.30. Follow OzDiabetesOC.