Today is Day 3 of Diabetes Blog Week, an annual event in the diabetes online community created by Karen at BitterSweet Diabetes. Here is today’s prompt:
There is an old saying that states “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. I’m willing to bet we’ve all disagreed with this at some point, and especially when it comes to diabetes. Many advocate for the importance of using non-stigmatizing, inclusive and non-judgmental language when speaking about or to people with diabetes. For some, they don’t care, others care passionately. Where do you stand when it comes to “person with diabetes” versus “diabetic”, or “checking” blood sugar versus “testing”, or any of the tons of other examples? Let’s explore the power of words, but please remember to keep things respectful.
My guess is that everyone will be talking about “diabetic” versus “person with diabetes” today. I wrote about this a few weeks ago right here. In short, I feel that the word “diabetic” is a label, while the word diabetes describes me and empowers me.
Today, I want to talk about the power of Language. I believe that Language has the power to influence how diabetes is talked about in the public domain.
At Diabetes Exchange in Sydney last week, we spoke about the importance of credible diabetes reporting. There are so many people and groups on social media who are passionate about their cause – whether it be diabetes technology, diabetes diets, government funding or anything inbetween. Pick a cause, and you can probably find a tribe. I think that’s fantastic. I love that we have so much passion in our community.
Yet many of these messages aren’t conveyed in a credible or sensible manner. I come across many groups and comments on social media sharing sensationalised messages. These people are so passionate about their cause, that they will happily skew the truth in order to receive attention. These messages are often inaccurate, generate fear, and don’t really do anything to support people with diabetes.
However the sad reality is that the wider media eat up these sensationalised stories. The device that stops her from going unconscious overnight. The suffering boy who just saved his life with a shot of insulin. You get my drift.
These stories don’t really give a good representation of people with diabetes. People without any connection to diabetes make assumptions based on what they see reported. Perhaps that a person with diabetes is not fit to work. That a person with diabetes lives an unhealthy lifestyle. Or in some cases, that a person with diabetes could drop dead at any given moment! I don’t feel that it gives us a lot of hope.
Yet the success stories don’t receive enough attention. Where are all the people who are living relatively normal, happy lives with diabetes? Positivity can be a wonderful motivator for health, and I feel it’s sorely overlooked.
My point being, it starts with us. With you and with me. We have the power to shape how diabetes is talked about in the media and in the public domain. To borrow from Renza, Language Matters.
To read other posts related to today’s prompt, click here.