Here's an insightful comment from me: Social media has gripped our world, the way we live, the way we interact, what we know and influences what we do. (OK, stop laughing: I'm not a Luddite, but needed somewhere to start this conversation.)
At times, I wonder where all those folks (usually young folks) find all that interesting stuff they send to each other on a such a constant basis that it seems their smartphones are a direct extension of their fingertips. So much to say right now! I can't imagine there being that much that is so important that people walk down the street mesmerized by those things.
But maybe that is just my ignorance and my difficulty "engaging" in this new social sphere. For me, it has to be something useful to say, something useful to know, something that is going to impact my life. That's where I find all of the social media and instant access to information so helpful. Make me smarter, keep me in touch with what is important, broaden my horizon on topics of interest to me. Then you have me engaged as well.
For cancer patients-especially newly diagnosed cancer patients-and their families, loved ones and caregivers, the situation is more serious--a lot more serious. They need help, understanding, explanation, and lots of care and compassion. The devastation of a new cancer diagnosis or a worsening cancer or the ravages of treatment can leave even the most informed person desperate to understand what is happening to them, what is happening to their lives, what they can expect to happen next. And filtering through all of the material now available with a click on the web can be overwhelming, especially when one considers that some of the information may be reliable and some of it not so reliable. Think of that recent ad which extols the virtues of the internet with the tagline, "If it's on the internet, it must be true." Right.
So where do you turn for help? Where do you reach out to people who are just like you: same age, same disease, same questions, same experiences?
The American Cancer Society has a web-based social network called "WhatNext". Developed in part with the help of the Society, WhatNext is designed to bring people together to share information about their experiences with cancer. Based on a number of factors including diagnosis and disease status, the site aims to link people and help them share insights that may be of mutual interest, such as the side effects of a treatment, what to expect from treatment, and experiences with a shared cancer diagnosis. (The proactive matching is what makes WhatNext different from our other online community, Cancer Survivors Network.) The information is all public except for the person's name, so others can learn as well. Through this community of learning and sharing, there is much we can learn about what to expect, what we need to know, and how we can build on common interests when it comes to understanding the cancer journey. More...