If you want to really examine the good that social media can do, you should look no further than the myriad patient communities online. Before, even with the most supportive family and friends, those managing chronic diseases weren’t in daily contact with people who really “get” what they are going through day in and day out–and social networks have changed that. With these communities, there now exists a built-in and connected support and information system. These communities also serve as an incredible resource for friends and family who want to understand better what their loved ones deal with on a daily basis.
One of the most passionate and active patient communities out there are D-bloggers—bloggers with diabetes. Amy Tenderich of Diabetes Mine—which is truly a gold mine of information about diabetes—has agreed to answer Media Bullseye’s ‘5 Questions.’ Amy is also the co-author of the book “Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes.”
1) What prompted you to blog/use social media?
Amy: My diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes in 2003 blindsided me and left me feeling lost and isolated in ways I never could have imagined. At that time, the Internet didn’t offer ready connection to other people living with this thing – nor answers to my most pressing questions, like: How do you carb-count Chinese food? How do you deal with glucose-induced mood swings? Or where do you keep all your diabetes supplies when you travel? I started researching this stuff myself, and was delighted to be able to share it and to reach out to others walking in my shoes through the blog.
2) What benefits—direct and indirect—have you discovered using this communications tool?
Amy: I always tell people, if I just had this stupid disease, and I didn’t have my blog as an outlet, and the online community to encourage me – THAT would be a bummer. Being part of this passionate patient community is what gets me up in the morning. I feel like I’m connected to something bigger than myself, i.e. advocacy and helping others.
3) Writing is tough work, and blogs, with the need to be updated on a fairly regular basis, can be particularly challenging. How do you stay inspired, and how do you keep things interesting?
Amy: Inspiration comes easy, because diabetes is so huge that you think about it all the time anyway. It touches so many aspects of your life: food, exercise, emotions, illness and wellness, your feet, eyes and heart, driving, working, the logistics of going about your day, and much more. On top of that, there are dozens of interesting diabetes-related news headlines every day to talk about.
My bigger challenge is filtering through it all; I don’t always have the bandwidth to post about everything I’d like to. That’s why I added my “Weekly Nuggets” highlight section. In terms of keeping things interesting, I try to cherry-pick topics that jiggle my own personal chain the most. Luckily, I’m just the insatiably curious type.
4) What three blogs do you read regularly, and why?
Amy: Finslippy – Motherhood to laugh out loud! Some people just have the GIFT of word-magic. Alice Bradley is simply addictive.
Well – Tara Parker-Pope has her finger on the pulse of America’s health concerns. She’s a must-read in my book.
Aiming for Grace – One of my favorite fellow D-bloggers. The author, who calls herself “Birdie,” writes beautiful, personal prose about what it feels like to live diabetic. She’s also a gifted photographer.
5) Are there any other social media tools that you have found particularly useful (like Twitter), or, if you’ve tried other tools and prefer to focus on blogging, why?
Amy: My blog is my home base, because I love writing. And I love having my very own place to publish my stuff. I tend to do rather long, in-depth posts, including interviews, analyses, product reviews, profiles, and more.
Meanwhile, I’m also enjoying being the Community Manager of a new Facebook-like social network for diabetics called DiabeticConnect.com. We just launched the site in June and we already have over 10,000 members! There I feel like I’m in touch with “the heart of America’s diabetes,” because we reach so many Type 2s all over the country, including a lot of people you wouldn’t necessarily expect to be hip to social media tools.
Also, I’m just getting into Twitter now. I’ve had my blog feed running there for a while, but I’ve recently discovered how much fun it is to “Tweet” from anywhere using my iPhone. Talk about addictive! My poor family has to fight even harder to get my attention now 🙂
Please note: World Diabetes Day on Nov. 14! We’ll be lighting up San Francisco City Hall in blue as part of the monument challenge.