In recent weeks I have had to cut back on a lot of my work, as my immune system was showing signs of creaking. Several infections and constant tiredness meant that yet again I would have to physically rest up to enable myself to re charge. This is nothing new, but is becoming more frequent, and very frustrating. As in my working life it seems I function much better when there is little time for thinking. Decisions seem to be made quickly and correctly, but with time to think things are very different. I sit and analyse things, weighing up the pros and cons and quickly become indecisive, the very opposite of what I have always been! So with plenty of thinking time, I started to look at the things I share on social media. Believe it or not, I am a very shy guy, and needed a lot of persuading to go onto social media in the first place, but I understood how it would help my work, and to that end it has been successful. My view was that I should be open and honest with what I share otherwise I felt there was no point. However I have noticed over the three years I have been writing, that I am much more relaxed about what I share, as it has become second nature to me. But I know that is not the same for all of us.
Social media gives us all a platform to share whatever we want, and in the early years we used it cautiously, mostly sharing family pictures amongst friends, but now people share their most intimate secrets with the world, without a second thought. The world of cancer has been changed dramatically by the way we can communicate and share experiences. We now have an information overload on disease and treatment, and can in many cases communicate directly with healthcare organisations and professionals. There are millions of people around the world blogging about their experiences, good and bad, meaning we can read about almost anything that we are likely to face. But having received so much ‘reality’ of other peoples cancer, I have been wondering if it was all a positive step.
Then two things happened last week, firstly I read the final blog from a brave lady Lisa Boncheck Adams, who died recently from breast cancer. I then received a message from one of my social media friends who had just read a blog from someone with the same disease as them and was upset to read what was happening. Both those things made me think more about my own contribution. Initially I thought of the television analogy, and said if people don’t want to hear from me then they won’t follow my work, but it is not as clear cut as that. Our blogs get shared around the world and are featured in many websites and health publications, so you may unintentially see something you don’t want to. The degree of detail that is now available can be very upsetting if you are not quite prepared for it.
My work has been driven by the many benefits I see. Cancer has shown me the skill of writing which I never realised I had, and given me a positive focus after it took so much from my life. I feel a lot better for sharing my experience, and I know from the feedback I receive that many people enjoy reading it. I have encouraged many others to write and we have a great community, sharing and helping each other along our bumpy road. Many people are learning from us sharing our experiences, not just our peers, but professionals too. However, I do wonder where it is all heading, can it all be getting too much?
In many areas of cancer and healthcare generally, there is still an awful lot to do in terms of raising awareness of many long term conditions, and how we can take responsibility for our own health and make certain lifestyle changes. Will the reality of reading about other peoples experience help us with our own, or make us more uncomfortable? Personally I am living the reality of my own cancer experience but am involved with thousands of others in one way or another, and it has become my way of life, and very little shocks me now. But I am also aware that it is very different for the casual user of the internet, what is reality for me, might truly shock others.
When I was introduced to the wonders of the internet, I felt I had a virtual freedom and dismissed those that advised caution, particularly in the healthcare sector. I was given wings and I was going to fly! But now I am beginning to see things from the other side Now the ‘jeanie is out of the bottle’ we can’t put him back, but I do wonder if we should consider more what we share, not from a personal perspective but from a possible readers. Generally we are so keen to share something with the world, we have little consideration for who may read it.
Of course it is our own decision what we choose to share or read, and it’s fantastic that the internet has given us that freedom, but I know the two instances I mentioned earlier will make me think a little differently about how I share some of my information. How much of your life do you share, and do you know your boundaries? Do you believe that all healthcare sharing is good? Have you ever reacted negatively to something you have read? As always please feel free to share your own thoughts below.