There has been a massive increase in the number of users of online health communities. This number is far less when compared to the users of general social networking sites such as Facebook, which has more than one billion registered users.
But online health communities are different. People get the opportunity to talk to others and discuss about various diseases and symptoms that they share. Alongside, they get to research, and track their health information on the site only.
Let’s go through the many benefits of social networking and online health communities:
It takes an awful lot to deal with a chronic mental or physical health condition. Whichever illness you are going through, sometimes all you need is to hear the story of someone who’s been through the same. Whether it’s a severe disease like cancer, or back pain, hearing someone else’s thoughts about how they dealt with it or is dealing with the situation help calm you down a bit.
Also, according to various studies, interaction and exchange of information through online health communities improves our disease management. Moreover, we learn new habits because we trust people similar to us more than we trust the figures of authority.
People improve their ‘offline’ routines by taking motivation from online peers.
It is ever so inspiring to hear that someone defied the odds and fought something you are going through at the moment. The community members of online health communities often review the experiences and treatments posted by the members. This is beneficial for fellow members because they get an idea about what measures others are taking for their illness and what results they are achieving.
Take the example of a person suffering from severe migraine. He can find a fellow member on the online health community, who has recovered from this very illness. Seeing him full of hope on receiving a successful treatment will help the one suffering greatly. And sometimes, hope is all you need to keep going!
Another great benefit of an online health community is being accountable for an activity or exercise. For instance, you and a fellow member have agreed that both of you will do thirty minutes of exercise each day.
Suppose you miss exercise one day; you’ll feel embarrassed to tell your internet acquaintance that. And so, as you feel accountable for the daily progress, you will try to complete the task or activity that you have committed to with punctuality.
You won’t feel comfortable talking about certain medical conditions in public or with your family or friends. But in online health communities, you can talk to people and share everything while keeping your identity hidden. You have the freedom to open up as much as you wish to. No one is going to say anything or judge you. And so, that fear is eliminated once and for all!
This is very beneficial for those with a mental illness because there is a social stigma associated with it.
Consulting a healthcare specialist is the recommended way of getting a diagnosis or asking any question. However, online health communities can provide answers related to coping with a particular health condition.
Fellow members can answer questions like how to remember to take medicine, how to sleep with a hand plaster on, or where you can buy an oximeter.
You lost some pounds because of exercise. Or, an MRI report showed that everything is fine. A pat on the back from fellow members will then do wonders for both of you! And with this, you’re going to feel reinforced and motivated.
The engagement levels of online health communities are much higher than other social networking sites. With a dedicated portal, discussions are around very specific topics that make it engaging for the members.
Moreover, caregivers, family members, and friends of patients become aware that others out there face the same challenges.
The users of such online communities give positive reviews stating that these sites are helpful for managing, learning symptoms, and understanding treatments.
Many members remain active in the community just to help others which can be a rewarding experience. But make sure to consult your doctor, make notes of any conflicting information, and listen to your doctor primarily because they know your condition better.
Now it’s your turn to tell your story, motivate and answer questions so that people can benefit and you can find a sense of satisfaction within yourself.
While you may quickly end up feeling lonely and feeble during an illness, an online health community can make you feel better in the comfort of your home. By sharing your thoughts and listening to other’s stories, you’ll have a new perspective on your life and illness. And hopefully, once you benefit from others, you can inspire others by helping them through your personal experience.
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