Nothing in the world works in isolation. I have always believed in being connected with everything. From a young age, I was acutely aware of how small we, as individuals, are amongst the planet we live in. Nevertheless, we should not underestimate the power of one and that every action has a ripple effect. We see this all the time in our lives. Walking down the street and receiving a cheerful and hearty greeting makes you smile and puts you in a better mood instantly. Just as easily, being verbally abused for accidentally bumping into someone on the street ruins your day. What we tend to forget is that this is also very much applicable in the online world.
Online support groups are immensely powerful. When I was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I searched for groups on Facebook to join. I didn’t know what to expect or look for. I just wanted to know I wasn’t alone. Sadly, I was rejected from several groups but ended up joining a group for young adults with diabetes and one specifically for those with mature onset of diabetes in the young. It wasn’t long before I found the diabetes online community on twitter. Since then, my diabetes network has grown exponentially. Looking back, if I had continued to feel dejected and gave up every time I was denied access to a group, my mental health probably would have taken a turn for the worst and I wouldn’t be where I am today. Think back to primary school, where you wanted to join in on a game but no one would give you a chance. It was pretty isolating.
Since being part of several groups, I have seen my share of disagreements within an otherwise positive and supportive environment. Arguments start for a variety of reasons. Two-dimensional text on screen can sometimes be interpreted the wrong way. But more often than not, it’s due to a lack of empathy. We can often be concrete in our views and perception that we fail to acknowledge that others may be coming from a different point of view. They may have had different experiences that led them to feel strongly in a certain way. Who are we to judge and say that a particular view point is right or wrong?
With social media, it’s important to remember while we are shrouded to some extent with the anonymity provided by the internet, what we type and send for the world to see has a huge effect on people. Just like when we tackle the world in person. We should never ever forget this. As an online community, we are here to support others in their time of need. No matter what their needs or issues are. Sometimes a ‘hang in there, hope things will start looking up soon,’ goes a long way. Treat others with respect and give them a chance to share their perspective on things. We may learn something new. Think before posting something online. Getting a point across is important, but is it being done in an appropriate and respectful way? Remember that everyone is entitled to their opinion. The fundamental purpose of a support group is to create a safe and comfortable environment, enabling everyone to share their experiences and learn from each other. It is a place for discussion, not debate or accusations. Most certainly not for shoving opinions down people’s throat! Life is very rarely black and white, and we need to learn to embrace and appreciate the grey.