Participants in health-related communities have common bonds, but vastly different opinions can spark heated discussions quickly. I enjoy debates, but sometimes I get flustered, as I’m sure we all have at some point. I have a lot to learn, but I have a few strategies for dealing with negativity.
So far, this blog has been criticized for two things, but I’m not too worried about it, because these folks don’t read blogs anyway. They think this sounds like a waste of time, and it makes my personal life/health conditions too publicly accessible. I don’t write for them. I write for people with chronic illnesses, ostomies, and a few healthy readers who want to gain some insight on caring for family and friends.
The negativity I encounter is mostly in Facebook groups or discussion forums. Here are some handy tips if you find yourself cursing at your computer screen.
1. When in doubt, research the topic and arm yourself with facts.
I was once told to stop spreading bad information. This is certainly a concern for me, so I did some research and posted the things I found. The subject is one of the most controversial topics in the IBD community: Whether or not a person can have Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and IBS at the same time. Boy, do people get riled up over this one. The answer is no, by the way.
2. Understand that when people are passionate, they can come across as rude to everyone who disagrees.
Tone is lost in text-based discussions, and I think some people might be bolder online than they are in person. Political comments and conversations in the chronic illness community are extremely passionate because we all have so much at stake. Lately I have seen some hateful things, but I remind myself that we are all just trying to survive. If you feel like you can’t speak up about disagreements, step away from the situation and process what you want to say. That way, when you come back, you’ll have a clearer idea of how to express yourself without coming across as mean.
3. If someone insults you or your beliefs, don’t take it personally.
This is much easier said than done. I find it helps to remind myself of positive comments to counteract the negative ones, and to divert my attention elsewhere. When I post questions about getting a job and hiding my illness, I usually get ridiculed by somebody for publicly subscribing to Facebook pages and participating in groups. They think it’s crazy to be so open about everything, and they pride themselves in their ability to hide their issues when they choose to.
4. Support fellow community members
I tend to step up if someone is getting picked on, and I love it when we look out for each other.