Social networking helps the medicine go down (from 9.8% to 6.7%)

by Elizabeth Snouffer on 10/03/2012

One day last month, I received the following email in my diabetes 24-7 Facebook page inbox.  It was by far the most significant email I have received all year.

I don’t know Diana, but I was very thankful for her thoughtful message.  While it was wonderful that she felt my work and website made a difference in her life, I believe the Diabetes 24-7 tribe (all the people who provide commentary on the Facebook page) had also made an impact.  After all, the message came from Diana into the 24-7 Facebook inbox.  Her thanks (and her success) also provided me with some proof that positive reinforcement and surrounding yourself with the right tribe – your go-to-group for dialogue and inspiration about the most meaningful issues in your life – can provide a catalyst for change.

Positive reinforcement from a doctor or a partner can make a difference, too, but more than the occasional “good job” and pat on the back, it can be more significant to surround yourself with a support system, a.k.a. the right tribe.  The right tribe will support your effort (for losing weight or going to back to college or yes, trying to achieve a better HbA1c – see definition below) and will understand the difficulty in getting there.  Members of the right tribe might even be trying to attain the same goals as you.  Finding support systems in today’s world can be tricky, but social networking has allowed each and everyone of us to find connections that make sense in a meaningful and personal way.

Examples of online tribes are everywhere behind Facebook and Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest and more.  There are many diabetes communities online, but I am not familiar with mediums that provide real-time responses.  This is why Facebook seemed like a great tool for diabetes – with more content space available for necessary explanations when it comes to important medical details.  When the Facebook page of diabetes 24-7 started to get active at first, I wondered what I should post that could be the most meaningful or relevant.  Knowing that people have about a 3-5 second attention span, I knew whatever I posted had to be visual.  Delicious photos of food worked OK, but cooking beautiful food was time consuming and people went hot and cold, and stilted conversation. “Ewww, I hate tomatoes” was not a desired effect for open communication.

One day, I realized what an impact a good blood sugar number had on my feelings of self-worth and how it positively impacted my potential to have a productive day.  Additionally, one good sugar reading often produced another if I was really paying attention.  In fact, I was getting much better readings the more I posted my results.  I decided to test it out and I began posting my blood sugar readings – photographing them before dinner and after lunch, when I exercised or whenever I felt the reason to celebrate – for anyone to see.

The response was huge.   People with diabetes “liked” seeing that normal blood sugar numbers (>70 mg/dl and <150 mg/dl) can be possible.   I wasn’t surprised, but I was humbled.  In fact, posting all those numbers had a similar effect on me.  I realized that getting great results 50-60% of the time only meant that I could certainly raise the game and try for at least 80-90%.  Self-awareness is an amazing tool.  Self-awareness coupled with a supportive network that recognizes efforts and makes a call to action is that much better.

So… thank you for supporting me with all of your helpful comments—pushing me ahead.  Thank you for supporting others who also have diabetes questions and aspirations.  I think collectively we are making a big difference.  Lastly, congratulations to Diana for getting such a great Hba1c result – 6.7% is superb.

HbA1c test or Glycated hemoglobin (hemoglobin A1c) is a form of hemoglobin that is measured primarily to identify the average plasma glucose concentration over a period of three or more months.  It is the diagnostic test used to access whether a person with diabetes is attaining goals and should be less than 7% in some patient cases and below 6.5% in others.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott K. Johnson October 3, 2012 at 23:29

The support I get from my diabetes tribe online has made a huge difference in my life. Huge!

Thanks for sharing this story, it’s one more great example of it all making a difference.

maria eugenia October 4, 2012 at 06:53

soy diabetica y tengo una bomba de insulina

Elizabeth Snouffer October 4, 2012 at 11:05

Thanks Scott – great to hear your perspective, too!

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