Social media has a lot to offer those of us with chronic health conditions. Not only can it provide a sense of community with people that share our struggles, but it also offers us useful tools to help our overall well-being. We can start our day with our horoscope, enjoy a workout with a social media celebrity trainer, and also get tips on what healthy food we should grab for dinner.
But we must also acknowledge the downside of social media as a whole. Constantly viewing the apparent happiness and perfection of others can have a corrosive negative effect on your own self-confidence. Whether it’s a bikini body with a perfectly timed sunset background, a chiseled bodybuilder hitting their heaviest weight yet, or a family who looks peachy keen at their fall photoshoot, we rarely see the unhappiness and struggles that other people face.
Finding the diabetes online community has blessed me in so many ways. It has definitely impacted the way I approach my diabetes management, usually for the better, but sometimes for the worse. Seeing the successes of others has inspired me to set higher standards for myself, but when I fall short of those lofty goals, it contributes to burnout.
I try to keep these things in mind when engaging on social media with the diabetes online community:
Social media can be a wealth of information and support
I’ll never forget the time I made my first post to a diabetes Facebook group: within minutes I had other people just like myself giving me advice and befriending me. That online community immediately became an important resource for me, both for emotional support and practical tips. I’ve since met some of those people that held my hand in the beginning, and I am forever grateful.
I have learned a ton of valuable information. I know that it is okay that I manage my diabetes with multiple daily injections and not a pump and can do so successfully. I know that if I want to go to my favorite burger joint, I need to inject exactly 7 units for my favorite meal. Thanks to the diabuddy who helped me troubleshoot and figure it out!
Thinking back on it, I got my most useful tips and tricks on how to successfully live with this condition through social media, and not at the doctor’s office. So I would say, in that regard, social media has been quite advantageous. And now I find myself giving advice just as often as I’m asking for it.
(With that said, it’s worth remembering that few of these people are experts, and that you should always consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management.)
But try not to compare yourself
Many of us turn to the diabetes online community for the feeling of connection. When you have diabetes influencers on your Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok streams, you’re fed a steady series of reminders that help you keep your condition at the top of your mind but also help communicate that you’re not alone.
Unfortunately, inspiration and guidance can turn into frustration and jealousy. Some influencers seem like they’re always flaunting their tech at glorious beaches or in glamourous cities, showing off their perfect Dexcom lines on family vacation in the Swiss Alps, or boomeranging expensive champagne with their diabesties—this is not an accurate depiction of life with diabetes. My life doesn’t look like this, and yours doesn’t either. And given that people with diabetes are already very likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, I’m worried that these unrealistic images can lead to a downward spiral.
Thankfully, there are some influencers and experts that don’t sugarcoat life with diabetes and share their struggles as well as successes. Try and follow people that give good advice, and those that are actually relatable. Their posts can be inspirational in a productive way.
We spend enough time thinking about diabetes
We all have experienced diabetes burnout at some point, regardless of how long we’ve been living with this disease. It’s something that just happens, no matter what sets it off, whether it’s the stress of the nonstop management, the financial hardships it causes, or the health problems that make it hard to get through everyday life.
A lot of people benefit from social media and being active in our community. I know it helps change my mood when someone posts a funny diabetes meme or shares a funny moment. I love being part of a group that battles the same demon day in and day out. It makes you feel less alone.
However, you may need a break from social media and that’s okay! Social media is a nice way to procrastinate and let the mind wander, but it doesn’t feel like an escape when all you see is diabetes… graphs, pictures of pump placements, low-carb wars, and so on. Sometimes it’s just too much. When you feel turned off or overwhelmed, step away. We deal with diabetes enough as it is.
My vote is for (a healthy amount of) social media
I personally think social media and the diabetes online community have helped shaped me as a person living with type 1 diabetes. It gave me knowledge on diet and exercise, it gave me friendships that can get me through tough days, and it helped me get a job that I love.
But I can’t ignore the fact that social media can also have the ability to cause people to feel worse about themselves and their diabetes care. It can be too consuming. Make sure to disconnect and be present in your life. Focus on the good aspects of social media and our community and forget the rest!
Read more about Dexcom, diabetes burnout, Diabetes Online Community (DOC), exercise, insulin, Intensive management, low-carb diet, social media, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes.