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Diabetes, How Social Networking Can Help


Diabetic patients are increasingly looking to the Internet for help. The knowledge, support, and engagement of people found on social networking sites have become important for patients living with chronic disease and illnesses, such as diabetes, yet the quality of the content found on social networking sites, particularly the communities held in social networking sites, are poorly understood. Many patients are found on social networking sites but most continue to use Facebook, but is Facebook the right place for people seeking information on diabetes?

The Social Networking Power

Diabetic patients are increasingly looking to the Internet for data, gathering information about treatments in particular. The knowledge, support, and engagement of people found on social networking sites have become important for patients living with chronic disease and illnesses, such as diabetes, yet the quality of the content found on social networking sites, particularly the communities held in social networking sites, are poorly understood.

Is Facebook The Right Place For Diabetics?

Facebook has over 400 million registered users, and is an important online meeting place for social networkers. These 400 millions users come together to share information, sometimes on unrelated topics, whether it be about their personal stance, opinions, photos, or even videos. Diabetic specific groups have formed on Facebook, representing important sources of information, support, and engagement for patients with chronic disease. However, is Facebook the correct place to house these Diabetic groups? Shouldn’t diabetic sufferers come together on diabetes specific social networking sites? Relatively little research has been completed on Facebook to explore the information that patients request, the unsolicited information that is provided, or the real reasons why these diabetic communities exist on Facebook. Beyond a low level of screening for offensive posts, there aren’t any editorial monitors or fact-checkers on Facebook.

Promoting Products

Diabetic organisations heavily promote their products on Facebook, an unregulated environment. The majority of promotional posts on Facebook promoted dietary supplements and other natural cures for diabetes. Practitioners and patients are unaware of the information exchanged by diabetic organisations is accurate or whether patients received advice to engage in potentially harmful activities.

Accordingly, on diabetic specific social networking sites, where real diabetic patients are communicating with other diabetic patients, on a personal basis, without the influence of companies wanting to heavily promote their products.  

Exchange of Information on Diabetic Sites

Many users are sharing information regarding their concerns about possible adverse effects of medications and diet supplements in attempts to see if their own experiences correlated with that of others. For instance: long-acting insulin glargine therapy drew several responses claiming adverse effects such as severe weight gain, mood swings and body aches, were all common themes when it comes to information sharing on diabetic social networking sites.  However, most information shared on social networking sites include other sensitive information on diabetic management that would unlikely be revealed to doctors. Why?

Support Communities

The idea of community support validates heavily promoted information by large organization. Patients gain interpersonal and community support from wall posts and discussion threads, they access forums of specialized knowledge on diabetes management from peers, and can articulate positive but realistic self images as diabetic individuals and a mobilized diabetic community.

Conclusions  

Facebook provides a platform for many people sharing information on various topics but is not the right option for patients with diabetes, as there are no streams of accountability or authenticity checks. Patients, family members and friends should be using diabetic specific social networking sites, to share information, to request disease specific guidance and feedback, and to receive emotional support, without the heavy influence of organizational promotional activities.

Social Medicine is a new world of social networking, that promotes exchange of knowledge, ideas and information, making user experience an energizing and a rewarding one.

Social-medicine.org is putting the social back into all things medical. Designed to help individuals dealing with particular illnesses, help share their thoughts, experiences, and knowledge with others who experience the same condition. It is designed to be a social, fun and a relaxed way to learn and share information. Its emphasis is on connecting people and has all the social networking features and functionality expected.

Social-medicine.org is differentiated from the other medical social networking sites as it primarily focuses on illness sufferers within the health communities. Social Medicine fosters a community support experience, where real people in similar situations come together, to circumvent negative feelings like disconnection and loneliness, and focus on improving self-esteem, understanding, communication, relationships, and peer support.

Please also find further information on the about page http://social-medicine.org/about/ and a YouTube video on Social Medicine’s functionality at http://youtu.be/MSz1sfJoa2o

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