The diabetes online community is big place. It is a global network of many, many people, living many, many diabetes lives, with many, many experiences. Those experiences colour and shape the way we react to certain situations and help to focus our attentions on issues that become our ‘thing’. For some, that may simply be to find and/or offer support from  and to others walking the same path. Reducing isolation is one reason that people feel that online support is so powerful, as boarders (of all sorts) melt away.

I have sought great solace in the community many times. This community has seen me through diabetes issues where I have felt lost, hopeless and terrified; they have supported me through times of personal anguish; they have cheered for me when I’ve done something worth celebrating. And they have had my back, shining a light for me until I was able to hold it up myself again to get out of the black tunnel that had engulfed me.

I first joined Twitter back in 2009, but it was in 2011 that I first started to really reach out and connect. It was participating in DSMA chats that first exposed me to the global online community and I was astounded. I truly had no idea that people existed who were genuinely there to support others in truly selfless ways. That support meant different things to different people and was offered in different ways. For some people – well one person – it was starting DSMA and not only asking questions each week as we all came together to share our experiences about a variety of topics but providing a listening ear and helping hand outside that hour of power. For others, it was jumping in when they could to respond to a question, or virtually high five a diabetes victory.

To me, it truly felt like a cocoon of people who were there to do good.

I am not naive enough to think for a moment that it was always perfect or that everyone there was always unflawed. There were the occasional flashes of heat, with disagreements not always being as respectful as they could be. But by and large, I felt that people’s differences were respected.

This community has always been good at outrage. The first time I ever wrote about it was when an Australian comedian misfired a joke about diabetes. I know that this wasn’t the first time the community had used its collective and loud voice to shoot someone down for saying something stigmatising about diabetes, but it was the first time I saw it in such a quick and almost coordinated manner.

But over the years, it seems to happen more and more – perhaps because more and more people have started using online platforms. Or maybe it is because we are getting tired of being the punchline to every poor joke about the latest Starbucks sugary concoction.

Somehow, though, that outrage has turned itself inwards. While many people in the community (and I count myself in there) are spring-loaded and ready to go if someone without diabetes attacks ‘my people’ (i.e. people with diabetes), it seems that these days, a lot of the outrage is directed within the community.

I see that in particular groups: it’s no secret that the first thing that comes to my mind is the LCHF movement, and those within it who believe that the best way to deal anyone not subscribing to their way of eating is to attack, attack, attack. But it would be unfair to suggest that this group has militant outrage all to themselves.

There are also some who are doing work that is genuinely important and critical in supporting those less fortunate, but as they go about their efforts, have become attacking and openly negative about other groups aiming for similar outcomes, but who are choosing to do it in different ways.

But that’s not the only thing that people seem to be antsy about. I’ve had people have a go at me for my decision to use Loop. I’ve seen people choosing not to use CGM be told they’re being irresponsible. I’ve seen people who work with industry – device and pharma companies – be shot down and told THEY are part of the problem when it comes to access to technology and drugs because they are being bought by Big Pharma. I call bullshit on all of, and wish that everyone could remember that there is more than one way to skin diabetes advocacy. (Ugh – that sounds really unpleasant.)

This week while at ADA, I saw one of the people who I have always considered to be a – if not THE – shining light of inclusion (and certainly one of the first people to welcome me into the community) have her integrity publicly questioned. I am, of course, talking about Cherise Shockley. As it turned out, I was sitting next to Cherise as this unfolded, and her calm composure put to shame the rage that was building within me. My trigger finger was itching to fire, but instead, I took deep breaths and waited.

Without going into all the tedious details, Cherise was being accused of not being transparent during a DSMA chat she had moderated a few years ago, the transcript of which was later used in some academic research. Cherise had, of course, disclosed this at the beginning of the chat. At dinner the other night, she sat there until she found the tweet that showed the disclosure, but by the time she shared it online, more and more people had jumped on the outrage bandwagon, joining the choir of accusers. Had any one of these people taken the time to search through Twitter, they would have found the tweet Cherise later shared.

But that’s not how we play in the outrage playground: we just jump on the merry-go-round with everyone else and get faster and faster and faster until the situation is either forgotten (after all, there will be something else to be outraged about tomorrow), or, as in this case, the outrage is shown to be completely unwarranted.

I waited for apologies to follow. They didn’t come. At least, not immediately, and then I decided to stop following what was going on because all I cared about right then was that my friend – a woman I love, who has looked out for and checked in on me more times than I could count – was okay.

I love this community. I have stood up at international conferences and gushed about the value of community, I have written about it and been involved in research about it to help build the evidence base for it, because I truly believe in it. But there are times – increasingly – that I feel I need a time out. And I hate that. Because I need this community: if you are part of this community, I need you.

There is a person at the other end of that Twitter handle, or Facebook profile. It’s easy to forget that sometimes. I don’t know anyone in the community who is actively involved in activism and advocacy who isn’t trying to improve things for people with diabetes. It may not be the way you would do it, it may not be the focus you have, it may not be through partnerships you would encourage.

But that’s okay. Many different approaches are fine. But let’s respect the way we choose to do that. Is it too simplistic to suggest that really, we just need to go back to remembering to be kind? Maybe. Probably. But without any other solutions that I can think of, that’s all I have. Be kind. Always, be kind.

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