Facebook, LinkIn, Foursquare, Google+, MeetUp… These are only a few of the social networking communities that we come into contact on a daily basis. While some individuals would use these tools/join these communities to stay connected with their friends and families who they do not see on a daily basis, others would use them to attempt at expanding their businesses, hoping to arrive at more opportunities. No matter what the reasons are for using the aforementioned social networking tools, these are the fortunate individuals. There are, however, some less fortunate ones who use these tools to search fellow patients, hoping to find someone who is facing the same pressure to control/manage their medical conditions or – even simpler – to survive. This group of individuals – we call them patients – is able to communicate, gather information, collaborate, and even share insights before making decisions affecting their health and possibly the quality of care they might receive. These social networks, thus, become platforms where patients can reach out to one another to form communities from anywhere they might be and at any time they see fit.
As noted in Heather Mansfield’s book, A How-To Guide for Nonprofits: Social Media for Social Good, Allison Nassour, a social media manager at Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, stated, “Facebook has been a highly effective tool in communicating the message of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, but it also allows our fans to support one another. Many openly share advice about grief and caring for a loved one living with pancreatic cancer. That’s what makes Facebook, and social media in general, so powerful. It provides the ability for people and nonprofits to connect with one another in a way that is open and meaningful” (Mansfield, 2012). This is a perfect example of forming a community anywhere anytime – a group of individuals coming together because they are facing the same problem whether be the patients fighting so hard to stay alive or be their strongest support providing the warmest care.
Over the years, Facebook has become more than just a website that connects one another through sharing photos, videos, news, and personal information; instead, Facebook has become “deeply entrenched in the online lives of people of all ages, and economic and political backgrounds” (Mansfield, 2012). To me, this sounds like a solid foundation in building communities of any kind, especially in disseminating health-related information, sharing experiences in managing and fighting to live under the influences of certain medical conditions, or providing expert opinions on assisting patients and families to make healthcare decisions. What is more important is the communication, collaboration, and sharing of insights and wisdom are limitless as long as there are a providing end and a receiving end.
Facebook, LinkIn, Foursquare, and Google+ are just the tip of the iceberg in the social media or social networking world. The following list was put together by Deloitte Center for Health Solutions in providing the general public with more information on what social networks are out there.
Not only businesses (small and large) benefit from social networks, health agencies and organizations also share that benefit from reaching out to the public, disseminating messages, and more importantly forming communities. Here are two examples (highlighted in yellow) listed by Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.
Many, many health-related social networks have been established to serve the purpose of forming communities to fit the specific needs of each subpopulation. Here is a select list.
All in all, social media is just a tool that attempts to bring people closer together, setting the platform to form communities/social networks in the virtual world on the Internet. The aim, however, is to extend the connections formed in the virtual world into our real world in providing the much needed support to a fellow patient, in advising those who need a second opinion from an expert, as well as in disseminating health and wellness information and messages as fellow human beings.
- Mansfield, H. (2012). Social Media for Social Good. A How-To Guide For Nonprofits. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies.
- (2010). Issue Brief: Social Networks in Health Care: Communication, Collaboration, and Insights. Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.