This is a repost of a guest blog post by Susan Chavez I featured recently on the Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer blog.
The Internet has done wonders for our understanding of breast cancer but now with social media we can take it one step further by not only learning but also connecting. Social media has enhanced our ability to learn about screening and treatment options, allows us to organize to support the search for a cure or, simply, lets us connect with others. Where to start, then? A great place to start is by exploring any, or all, of the three most popular social networks: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
YouTube is a great place to go for medical information related to breast cancer. The medical community has made great use of YouTube to help the public better understand everything from how to properly administer a self-breast exam, how diagnoses are performed, the latest research on treatments and health considerations for those who have finished and survived treatment. Cancer centers, like Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, even post videos of their physicians answering some of the more common questions asked by patients. For those looking for a survivor’s perspective, patient profiles can also be found on these medical institutions’ YouTube channels. A further look and you will find other personal profiles, and even video diaries, uploaded by survivors of all ages, backgrounds and gender.
The beauty of Twitter is that it constantly provides updates and ready conversation on any topic that interests you. Aside from following major charitable and research organizations, such as Susan G. Komen and MD Cancer Research Center, you can keep up with the latest news on breast cancer by following breast cancer related hashtags. Don’t know what a hashtag is? A hashtag is a topic trend on Twitter indicated by a term preceded by a pound sign. Three of the more popular breast cancer hashtags are: #breastcancer, #fightbreastcancer and #bcaware, which stands for “breast cancer awareness.” If you are not sure where to start on Twitter, searching for a hashtag lets you know what conversations are happening in real time that you can join in on. It is not enough to follow the conversation though as the best way to tap into the true power of Twitter is to join in on the conversation.
By far the largest of the social networks, with over 500 million users, Facebook is popular for good reason. Facebook allows users to build upon the networks they already have such as family, friends and co-workers. With Facebook it is easy to share information with everyone in your network, no matter where they live, all at once with simple status updates whether to keep their family and friends up-to-date on their fight with breast cancer and/or to solicit money for breast cancer research. Facebook users can expand their network by “liking” the Fan pages of leading charitable organizations and medical institutions, such as The Breast Cancer Site or the Johns Hopkins Breast Center. Fan pages allow users to interact with an organization by posting comments to that organization’s Wall and/or commenting on posts left by other Facebook users who “like” that organization. For those looking for a more personal experience, a number of online support groups can be found among Facebook’s Groups pages for those with breast cancer and those who have survived it. Most of the Groups are private with a Group leader who monitors who is allowed in the group and what is said in order to create a safe, protected space within Facebook.
Staying connected with a supportive community is critically important for individuals living with breast cancer and survivors. And social media makes it easier than ever to stay connected and develop supportive relationships. With nothing more than a willingness to join in and interact, social media can be a great ally in your breast cancer journey.
Susan Chavez is a nonprofit social media strategist, her website, www.susanchavez.com, provides tips and articles on using social networking to promote social good