Why Isn’t Online Peer Support Encouraged?
I first ventured online a year ago, shortly after I started this blog. I didn’t really know what was out there. I didn’t even think that there was anything out there where diabetes was concerned.
Even today, the size of this online community continues to amaze me. There are blogs, there are podcasts, there are news sites, there are friendly Facebook groups, there are the TuDiabetes forums filled with lively discussion, there are Tumblr pages filled with gifs and humour, and there are Twitter support chats.
It’s fair to say that my experience in online diabetes support has surpassed my expectations.
Online peer support has changed the way I live with, and view diabetes. It’s empowered me. It’s given me a voice for my diabetes. It’s given me a lot of confidence in the way that I live with, and manage my diabetes in real life. It’s given me a space to connect and to share with other people who are going through exactly what I deal with each and every day. It has empowered me to challenge myself, and to seek out alternative tools that will better help me to manage my diabetes. I seriously doubt I would have even considered an insulin pump if it weren’t for this sense of empowerment, and support from DOC connections.
One online peer support space that I truly champion here in Australia is the Oz Diabetes Online Community. If you follow the hashtag #OzDOC on Twitter every Tuesday night (that’s tonight) at 8.30pm AEDT (GMT+11), you’ll find a group of us sharing answers around a topic related to life with diabetes for one hour. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming, it almost seems as though we know each other in real life! I’ve joined in almost every Tuesday since I found it. It’s both thought provoking and supportive at the same time. All you need is a Twitter account, and you don’t have to use it for anything else if you don’t want to! You can lurk until you are comfortable to join in, and nobody will be any wiser.
I don’t know many people with diabetes in real life, so online peer support has certainly helped me to feel less alone with my diabetes. It’s just a shame that it took five years of life with diabetes to finally seek this community out. Nobody told me about it. Nobody encouraged me to do it. I just somehow stumbled upon it one day.
In all honesty, I’d love to see online peer support groups encouraged by healthcare professionals. I’d love to feel more comfortable talking about it, without worrying about receiving funny looks in return. I’d love to see posters hanging up in clinics and offices, and for diabetes professionals to suggest it to their patients. I’d love to see more open minded Australian healthcare professionals join in our social media activity.
On that note, I am going to make it my mission to plug the OzDOC community a little harder this year. I’ve joined a team of moderators who are bringing some fantastic topic ideas to the table for chats in the weeks to come. I’m going to plug it a little more in my blog posts and social media on Tuesdays. I’ve even snuck some posters into the waiting room at my Diabetes Clinic. I hope you can join us tonight.