I’ve only been a part of the Diabetes Online Community for a little over a year.
When I nervously took part in an OzDOC chat for the first time, I felt very welcome. Strangely welcome, because the discussion was so friendly it looked like these guys all knew each other in real life. Somehow Renza stumbled upon my (very crappy at the time) blog, and offered me encouragement. Mike was one of the first people to leave me a comment, welcoming me into the Diabetes Online Community. I later learned he worked for a little site called Diabetes Mine and had included my post in their monthly blog round up.
I found my place in this community quite easily, and I continue to participate quite actively. It stimulates me, it offers me support when I need it, and it inspires me to do better with my own diabetes.
Yet the other day, I felt compelled to agree that I sometimes I do feel hesitant to speak up because my opinion might differ from that of the majority.
To this day, one of the hardest things for me to accept is that not everyone is going to agree with me. I constantly try to remind myself that we are all different and naturally won’t agree on everything, but it’s still hard. I guess I find it hard to separate the difference of opinion with a dislike for my character. Silly, I know…
There have been some issues circulating around in the DOC that people have really strong opinions about. #DiabetesAccessMatters and Low Carb High Fat diets, are two examples that come to mind. Sometimes as a witness to these intense discussions and advocacy, I do feel hesitant to jump in with an alternate opinion for fear of being attacked or banished from a community I genuinely do love.
Social media only gives us a really small window into a person. When I first jumped in, I knew nobody with diabetes. I know for me, even just meeting a small group of peers at DX2Sydney this May has given me a lot of perspective in regards to the person with diabetes versus the Twitter window. It was a really valuable experience that carries me forward in my online activity to this day.
Some of my peers in the Australian community have set a great example for me in the use of diabetes social media. When I write here, I am increasingly conscious of trying not to “bash” the alternative opinion, or claim that my opinion is the right one, instead focussing on my own experience.
One thing I do admire is this community’s eagerness to comment and voice their thoughts. I often struggle to fit my ideas into 140 characters, and I’m terrible at keeping up in fast paced Twitter conversations. It often feels easier to lurk than to comment, and I feel I could be more inclusive by not being a stranger so often!
I feel that Diabetes Daily and Diabetes Mine also do an outstanding job of being inclusive of the wider DOC. Diabetes Daily feature a wide variety of perspectives on diabetes management that I find myself reading more and more of. And you need look no further than the @diabetesmine Twitter feed to see how engaged the folks at Diabetes Mine are with the wider community.
Reading Renza’s post on the issue of inclusiveness yesterday really put my mind at ease. We don’t have to agree with one another, but we certainly need to be respectful so that others don’t feel afraid to voice their thoughts.
I don’t really know how I come across online. But I hope that others would feel that I am respectful towards other opinions, even if I don’t agree all the time.
Be kind to one another.
You come across very considerate and accepting of a variety of views. Not to mention inclusive! It’s something I’ve had to learn too, that my way isn’t the only way or the right way. I was very focused on my own view when I started my blog at 17 (which hey, self-absorption comes with the icky teenage years anyway right?). Now that I’m basically ancient (I kid), I think I’ve become a lot more open to other ideas and like you I hope that is conveyed in my online presence.
If we were all the same we woudl be so much worse off. We need agree on everything to be civil and joyous to each other. I woudl rather be different and disliked than all the same and liked. So yes I think we can disagree and still be friends. There are no winners take all ever.
Thank you so much for this! You’re absolutely right but the most important thing is to be respectful and kind to each other.
Jeremy, T1D traveler
Excellent article. I like your point about being hesitant to post in online D chats because not everyone will agree with you. It’s surprising how people will argue points that seem inarguable online. The good thing about the DOC, generally speaking, is that the arguers aren’t just being negative, they’re just giving their actual opinion. Even when some people disagree with you, others (maybe lurkers) are thinking “good for him, I agree!”
Everyone’s diabetes is different, as they say, and that’s true for physical/medical details as well as psychological approach to it. I wouldn’t want any voices removed from the DOC though; every one gives it shape.
A famous man once said “if we all think alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” Like any other social group, the diabetes online community is stratified. There are the insiders – the old timers who shape the conversation and have the role of ‘thought leaders.’ At the other end are casual observers who watch from the sidelines but don’t actively participate. In the middle are folks like me who desire a more active role, but approach many of the discussions with a little trepidation.
Being heard and having an active voice in the discussion can be challenging and intimidating – particularly when we do not have the same experience and following as the old hands. I think for us to be embraced, we must be a breath of fresh air and add new perspectives in a positive, uplifting way. It’ll take time and persistence, but for the diabetes online community to grow and thrive we have to keep at it and the ‘leaders’ must be open to new voices.
Well done, and well said!
Thank you, Tom. I love this comment! Well said!