Finding Support for Diabetes on Social Media

November 9, 2015 6:45 pm
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Today people turn to social media for practically everything. From food to fashion to friends, Facebook is by far the most popular social media outlet. Many join groups on Facebook to connect around common interests or to find support for health conditions – like diabetes.  The Dario Lounge is one such group where fellow Dario users can get support about how to best utilize the Dario Smart Meter, yet also receive peer feedback, support, and information from each other. Mounting evidence shows that receiving support for diabetes via social media outlets can actually help improve health outcomes and compliance to diabetes treatment plans.

If you are living with diabetes, then you are in the unique situation of having to make constant medical decisions and calculations for yourself; how much insulin do I need to inject? How many carbs did that have? What was my last blood sugar level? It can leave you feeling like a walking high school chemistry project. And while your diabetes is 24/7, your doctor may not be. Online groups for people with diabetes have the capacity to fill the support gap, with others offering their own experiences of managing their diabetes. These groups are not meant to replace the medical expertise that only your doctor can provide – some healthcare professionals warn that the info from these resources may not be clinically accurate. But they can help you to have more informed discussions with your health care providers.[1]

More than just a place to find medical information, Facebook groups for people with diabetes can virtually offer a real sense of community and interpersonal encouragement. It can be empowering to hear how others are really living with the daily challenges of diabetes – progress and setbacks, highs and lows – and to not feel discouraged if you are living up to the “control” exactly how your doctor wants you to. Positive peer reinforcement can be the key to motivating behavioral changes to improve diabetes management. Such groups can also offer a way to diminish some of the disparities that prohibit people from getting information or support due to economic reasons or to living in more isolated or rural parts of the globe.[2]

What kinds of posts will you find in an online diabetes support group?

  • People searching for information about topics such as medication side effects, complications from diabetes, the pros and cons of becoming a pump user and more
  • People sharing their personal stories – the trials and tribulations of living with diabetes
  • Peer support and encouragement

If you can think of a topic, there is probably a diabetes group for it; regional groups, type 1, type 2, teens, travelers, and parents. And if there isn’t a group the fits you to a tee, then you can create one yourself. Facilitating a diabetes support group can be a very rewarding and empowering experience. But it isn’t always easy. Since it is a virtual world and you can’t hear someone’s tone of voice on a Facebook post, group members can sometimes have disagreements that can feel very personal. If you find yourself in the midst of an online verbal tussle, its best to walk away from the situation before it escalates. Remember that whoever is making unpleasant comments isn’t someone who actually knows you.

The rise in the amount of Facebook support groups for diabetes and other chronic health conditions is a testament to the fact that we are truly entering Health 2.0 – the idea that people are using the internet more for health information than speaking to medical professionals. With more access to information and peer support, diabetes management will continue to become more patient-centered.

[1] Greene, J., Choudhry, N., & Kilabuk, E., et al (2010). Online social networking by patients with diabetes: a qualitative evaluation of communication with Facebook. Journal of General Internal Medicine.

[2] Barrera, M., Glasgow, E. & McKay, H.G, et al (2002). Do internet-based support interventions change perceptions of social support?: an experimental trial of approaches for supporting diabetes self-management. American Journal of Community Psychology. Vol. 30, No. 5