Look at your social media profiles – and those of your friends – and what do you see? Most likely a highly edited and curated ‘best of me’ collection showing you in the best possible light.
This makes perfect sense. Of course the photos that we post of ourselves show us looking happy and smiley and as attractive as we possibly can. Because really, who wants to see us looking pissed off, grouchy and ugly. People around me get that in reality. They don’t need to see it in cyberspace as well!
A couple of weeks ago, in my jet lagged stupor, I sat there and went through my Facebook wall from the present day back through the seven years I’ve been using it. The things you see on my page are the following:
- Photos – of my family and our travels, and of friends
- Links to my blog
- Links to other people’s blogs
- Links to diabetes things
- A lot about Nutella
- A lot about doughnuts
- Links to the music I’ve been listening to
- David Sedaris links. Because he is funny and everyone should read him
- Recipes – usually of cakes I intend to – and then do – bake
- Photos of the cakes I bake
- Photos of coffee. A lot of photos of coffee
But the thing is, it’s not what we put up on our SoMe profiles so much as the things we don’t put up there.
If you look at what I say on my Twitter or LinkedIn profiles or the ‘about me’ page on this blog or other places where I write, what you read are the highlights of who I am. It’s very much name, rank, serial number – the sort of information I would give on tax return. What you don’t read – what I omit (quite deliberately!) – are the things about my personality I don’t necessarily want you to know (like the fact that I am so grouchy in the mornings that my daughter often precedes her ‘Good morning mum’ with ‘Have you had a coffee yet, mum?’ or I have a fire-y temper when socks are not thrown in the dirty laundry basket or that I binge-watched the first season and a half of Revenge).
I think there are definitely parallels between what we show of ourselves online and how we present ourselves to our HCPs.
How many of us show up to our diabetes appointments and only show the very best of our diabetes selves? For whatever reason – fear of judgement from our HCPs, a desire to appear ‘good’ – we either deliberately or subliminally hide away something that is probably important, but we think casts us in poor light. We present as confident, capable, knowledgeable and ‘in control’ of our diabetes.
Sometimes the thing we hide is our A1c. We forget to, or simply don’t, have our bloods done before our appointments so there is no discussion about how we are going with our diabetes management.
The ability to leave out crucial things that are going on in our diabetes life means that whatever is actually discussed at out appointments is only, at best, a distortion.
There is no victory in this for us as the person with diabetes.
Omitting critically important things about our diabetes and how we are going – no matter how ugly we think they are or how ‘bad’ we think it makes us look – means that the person we have charged with working with us along our diabetes way only has a small bit of information.
And once we start along these lines it is really difficult to come clean. If we’ve been sharing only parts of what is going on – or (and I’ll just be brutal here) lying – ‘fessing up with the truth is a hard thing to do.
If you’ve been swearing to your HCP that you always, but always check your BGL 6 times a day and have the scrawls in your log book to prove it, it’s not really pleasant to admit that actually, it’s been three weeks since you last fished out your meter.
Also, I believe there comes a point where we perhaps start to believe our own stories. I know that in the past, I managed to convince myself that my lack of frequent BGL checking was pretty much justified because it didn’t matter what I did, I couldn’t fix what was going on. (See also I have brittle diabetes so there is nothing I can do.)
I don’t believe there is any real deceit here. I know that the times that I’ve gone in with my ‘all is great, look how terrific and shiny and sparkly my diabetes is’ attitude (when the truth is the complete opposite) I’m not being maliciously fraudulent. Usually it’s just because I can’t be bothered trying to work out what the problems are. Or I’m burnt out and really haven’t the energy to actually put in the work needed. (Yes, of course I realise that it at these times that being honest and getting to the bottom of things makes sense. Yes, I understand that in the long-term I’d feel better. Yes. I am an idiot.)
So what do we do about this?
It is easy for me to say that we should just be honest, tell the truth and deal with however that is received. But I know that is too simplistic. No one wants to face disappointment or anger or frustration. No one wants to be called out on the things that have been omitted. And, there is a strong case here to focus on exactly why we feel the need to hide things – in fact, I would argue that until that is understood we can never expect to be fully honest. And the worst part for me is that I say this in the full knowledge that my endocrinologist – the main person (poor thing) who I work with about my diabetes – would never judge me or make me feel bad about anything to do with my diabetes management (or lack thereof).
We need to stop curating our diabetes life and trying to turn ourselves into Saint BGL. Because no one is perfect. And no one’s diabetes is perfect. Ever. And the truth of the matter is that it is okay to lay it all out for all to see. The good. The bad. And the downright ugly.
Neil Diamond. 1972. Crunchy Granola Suite. No idea why. Why not? Have a great weekend! (P.S. If you can find a copy of Tony Martin on the D-Gen Late Show – circa 1992/3 – talking about this song, do it! Good Lord!)