Over the weekend, an uncomfortable incident caught my attention in a closed diabetes Facebook group. A new member to this group introduced himself as a health coach, sharing a before and after graphic depicting drastic weight loss and an image of a book he was publishing. Apart from the brief mention of the words ‘T1D for 20 years,’ there was no real substance to his post and I seriously doubted that he actually did have a connection to diabetes.
While the moderators of this group were likely out enjoying their Sunday, the community in this Facebook group impressively called this behaviour out for what it was. This man was clearly soliciting his products and services, and many in the group made it clear to him that this kind of a post did not belong in a peer support group.
While many healthcare professionals are still skeptical of online communities replacing their fundamental role, I felt that yesterday’s incident was an impressive example of how peer support is clearly not a place for medical advice.
The Diabetes Online Community typically does a stellar job at self moderation, with the community fostering a culture where participants feel welcomed, encouraged and able to seek support from those who truly ‘get’ it.
Sure, a big part of our involvement in peer support is asking questions and sharing experiences, but the majority of the community embraces the philosophy that ‘one size does not fit all’ and that ‘your diabetes may vary.’ The DOC does not belong to any one person, and I believe that the majority of the community truly embraces this.
In my experience, keeping these philosophies in mind has made my experience an overwhelmingly positive one. Sure, I have witnessed uglier corners of online communities, and for the most part it’s where participants fail to acknowledge perspectives that might not be aligned with theirs.
One of the best things that has come from participating in the DOC is hearing these diverse perspectives, that have opened my eyes to the reality that not everyone is in as privileged a position as I am.
As for this individual, I expect that he is likely no longer a part of this online peer support group. I, for one, am glad that the DOC has the best interests of each other at heart.