Gratefuloldtimer: constructing life with diabetes through Facebook status updates

Nelya Koteyko
Daniel Hunt


As the web has become a principle source of health information for individuals in the developed world, recent clinical literature has increasingly looked towards the potentials of social media applications for communicating health information. This medical research has focused particularly on the potential for sites s such as Facebook to function as vehicles for delivering novel clinical interventions to patients with chronic health problems. In doing so, it has neglected to consider how individuals already employ social networking sites to perform and negotiate their identities as people with long-term illnesses. In contrast, this patient-centered study examines the role of social media in the lives of people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes and the different practices they employ in their ongoing representation of life with a long-term condition. The study is based on an ongoing observation of 19 Facebook profiles created and maintained by people with diabetes, and includes analysis of both individual (status updates) and group contributions to a number of UK diabetes support groups. The results reveal a range of concurrent practices and activities such as displaying lay expertise and providing advice, demonstrating integration into wider diabetes-related networks, and adopting a critical position in relation to the norms of diabetes control. These activities are an important source of evidence not only on the empowering aspects of social media (in terms of social support provision) but also on critical discourses where individuals challenge existing expectations of diabetes self-management and professional views.

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