Back in 2012 when we were thinking of starting the #OzDOC weekly Twitter chat, Kim, Simon and I were committed to making sure that it was a safe place, welcoming to all who wanted to use it. We encouraged people to actively participate, lurk in the background, jump in and out as they needed.
I had always been so impressed with the non-toxic and inviting place the #DSMA chat was, welcoming people with all types of diabetes as well as a few health care professionals, and I hoped that we could replicate this environment, albeit on a smaller scale, with #OzDOC.
Pleasingly, that’s the way it started and now, it continues to be that way. While I’m no longer involved in the running of OzDOC, or moderating its weekly chats, whenever I do drop by to participate, it is clear that the safe and inclusive model that formed its foundation continues.
It has been great to see that the encouragement of healthcare professionals to join in – lurk at first to get the idea and then respectfully participate – has continued, and frequently, a DNE or dietitian or endo will pop in and contribute.
But last night, during the chat, there was an intrusion that was not respectful. In fact, I likened it to someone bursting, uninvited, into my house and yelling that they didn’t like the way we’d decorated it and then offering to fix it as long as I paid them. I bristled immediately. And felt protective of the people in the #OzDOC room who had been so candidly and honestly sharing their thoughts.
This was a particularly delicate chat. Ashley had more than expertly navigated the sometimes tricky waters of a discussion about the place diabetes fits in our lives, and ended the chat with a question about burn out. It is a testament to the space that is #OzDOC to just how candid and honest people were in their responses.
So, the idea that someone tweeted something about how so many participants were clearly living with ‘out of control’ diabetes and then linked to her fee-for-service website, was not only inappropriate, but also insensitive, thoughtless and showed a true lack of understanding of what people with diabetes are dealing with.
My mother hen instinct kicked in. I had just laid myself bare as I used words that describe burn out to me, and others had as well. This was absolutely not the moment to promote a business and, at the same time, tell people they were doing a crappy job at managing their diabetes. And there is no place for judgement in this chat, especially from someone so clearly out-of-touch.
While my response was somewhat reflexive and probably could have done with a moment away from the keyboard before hitting the ‘tweet’ button, I don’t regret that I did it. And the responses from others in the chat suggested they too were feeling uncomfortable about the intrusion to the discussion.
I was furious that someone had so aggressively and judgementally invaded the safe space that has been so carefully cultivated. ‘Out of control’ diabetes? Really? Fuck off. (Actually, that was the response I wanted to type, but kept myself nice, so maybe I wasn’t as harsh as I thought.)
My concern about this intrusion was twofold. Primarily, I would hate for any person with diabetes to feel afraid of participating in any sort of peer-based activity for fear of being judged. We get enough of that outside of the spaces we create for ourselves and certainly shouldn’t have it forced upon us in our own groups.
But also, I would hate for any HCPs to think that they are not welcome to participate. They most certainly are, however the respect, lack of judgement and kindness expected by participants is expected of everyone. If they are unable to demonstrate that, stay away.
I’m not naming and shaming the person who tweeted last night. The tweet has been removed anyway. But, I would absolutely encourage them to come back next week and the week after and the week after that to learn. Watch what goes on in these chats, listen to what people are saying, understand the real-life sensitivities of diabetes.
And then, feel free to softly, softly join in. Respectfully ask questions (after asking if it is okay to ask questions) if there is something that needs clarifying. Gently share ideas that may be of benefit. But absolutely do not try to sell something. And check your judgement at the door.