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Connected: Discovering the Diabetes Online Community

Trevor Torres, Felipa Jenkins & Mallory Gricoskie find support

Laura Kolodjeski of Sanofi US DiabetesLaura Kolodjeski

When I first took on my role with Sanofi US Diabetes, I immersed myself in reading blogs and Twitter feeds to gain a better understanding of the diabetes online community (DOC). I also turned to Cherise Shockley’s #DSMA chats. What a wealth of information, ideas and fellowship! During some recent chats, I noticed several people who mentioned they were new to the chats and even the DOC, and thought it might be interesting to get their perspectives on the support they’ve found.

Allow me to introduce you to three new members of the DOC:

Trevor TorresTrevor Torres, aka @TheTrevorTorres, is a college sophomore and lives with type 1 diabetes.



Felipa JenkinsFelipa Jenkins, aka @ASDJenks, is a mother of two and lives with type 2 diabetes.



Mallory GricoskieMallory Gricoskie, aka @malgricoskie, is a “type 3,” supporting a husband who lives with type 1.



Q: How did you discover the DOC?

Trevor: I had known for a while that some type of diabetes community existed online. How could it not, since so many people have diabetes? But I was really introduced to it properly by Joyce Lee, a doctor who specializes in diabetes. She is a Twitter® power user, and told me about the DOC when I was asking her for Twitter tips.

Felipa: I just searched Twitter for #diabetes.

Mallory: My husband, Kyle, had a few overnight scares with low blood sugar. I was preparing to take a work-related trip out of state, and I couldn’t shake crippling feelings of worry. What if his blood sugar dipped when I wasn’t there? I found a forum on the American Diabetes Association website, and I spilled my guts. When I returned to the forum, I saw so many uplifting messages of support. I wasn’t alone. This was my first encounter with the DOC.

Q: How did you feel when you first discovered it?

Trevor: I was intimidated! There were obviously lots of people who were both experienced and passionate. Plus, the Internet can be a very volatile place. I was afraid that I might accidentally say something out of ignorance and start a flame war. For instance, I only recently discovered some people prefer the term “person with diabetes” to the term “diabetic.”

I like having people to identify with, although it seems that there are more people living with T1D active online, while it seems like T2s don’t really mention they’re T2.

Mallory: I felt like my feelings and worries were validated. I felt like I had an army of people I had never met behind me.

Q: What was your first #DSMA chat like?

Trevor: Fast paced. There were many more people than I expected, so it was hard to keep up with all the discussion. Still, that’s much better than an empty chat.

Felipa: I was kind of lost and a little confused.

Mallory: Confession: My first DSMA chat is the only one I’ve participated in thus far. That said, I very much enjoyed it. It was such a welcoming space, and everyone genuinely seemed to care about one another. I need to participate in more DSMA chats (I’m not the most reliable Twitter user).

Q: Has it been helpful to you to hear from those living with diabetes, as well as others caring for someone with diabetes?

I love the fact that people are so engaged, and it feels great to connect with other people with diabetes that share a similar mindset. On the other hand, it seems like there are many people with negative attitudes towards diabetes, which is one of the reasons I avoided online support groups before now. I’ve always been proud of the fact that I am so independent when it comes to diabetes. You could say that my family and my healthcare team were my support system. More importantly, though, the world around me provided me lots of support. I tell almost everyone within earshot that I have diabetes, and so far people have been very helpful, both emotionally and practically.

Oh my goodness, yes. I think it’s hard to strike a balance as a member of the supporting cast. My instinct is to check in and help all the time, when realistically sometimes all I can do — or should do — is cheer from the sidelines. I did a lot of self-evaluation after hearing stories of others living with diabetes. Whatever a “helicopter” was, I knew I didn’t want to be one! Sure, I still instinctively ask “How is your blood sugar?” in my sleep. But I’m better at this than I used to be, and I hope to keep growing and learning with the help of others.

Q: Do you have a favorite blog or DOC member you follow on Twitter?

I really like Diabetic Danica’s YouTube® videos. She’s positive and funny – there’s not much more you need, in my opinion!

Mallory: I came across Our Diabetic Life recently. I love it because I’m a sucker for all things creative. The woman who writes the blog, Meri, draws adorable cartoons about living with diabetes. She seems like a total superwoman. She has three sons who are type 1 diabetics.

Q: One last question – in three words, can you describe how the DOC makes you feel?

Trevor: Excited, nervous, stimulated.

Mallory: Accepted, understood, supported.

I think those words help sum up the DOC nicely. Having observed and engaged with the DOC for a few years now, it was interesting to me to get some newcomers’ perspectives. I remember well the fast pace of my first #DSMA chat! I hope Trevor, Felipa and Mallory continue to find support in the DOC. What do you remember about your entry into the DOC? Please share in the comment section below. My thanks to Trevor, Felipa and Mallory for sharing their thoughts.

All the best,

Laura K.

Disclosure: Trevor Torres, Felipa Jenkins and Mallory Gricoskie received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewees, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.

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