Could Facebook Help You Cope With RA?

More and more arthritis patients are turning to the Internet for support. Here’s how three women use social media to boost their spirits. 

Lori Murray
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Elizabeth (Lizzy) Wald

Adds Elizabeth: "You can always log on for support, whether it's for mentoring or to get inspired, or if you're having a bad day and need to vent. Having RA showed me how compassionate people really are—and made me more compassionate." Here, Elizabeth and other patients explain how to make the most of social media:

Ask around first. Rather than do a broad Internet search, try to get a recommendation for a specific website or Facebook page to visit. "It's like when you want to buy a car," says Elizabeth. "You don't just search online—you call a friend." If you don't have someone you can tap, ask your doctor if other patients have mentioned a good site.

"Listen in" before logging on. "Read others' stories first," suggests Elizabeth. "You don't have to reply to anything. Just observe, and you'll probably end up wanting to participate."

Consider anonymous forums. "Some people don't want family or friends to see their RA posts," notes Niki. "Others don't want co-workers to know. That's when private forums come in handy because you can log in with a user handle." Another option: "Some of our members have a second Facebook account just to connect with others about their condition."

Establish boundaries. After 34 years of nursing, Christine, who lives in Dillwyn, VA, knows how important this is. "Don't allow yourself to get caught up in other people's drama," she cautions. "And don't rush to give—or take—advice. If it's a medical issue, talk to your doctor first."

Steer clear of negativity. "You'll see pretty quickly who's judgmental or constantly negative," notes Christine. "If you're logging on and have a feeling of dread, like Oh no, I wonder what she has to say today, run—run for the hills!" she laughs.

April 2013