We live in an age now where everyone is addicted to social media, and the majority of life is connected to the internet.
When I was growing up, if I wanted to spend time with friends my mom would drop us off at the local pool, or we would go out and climb trees, play hide and seek, or play Monopoly. Thirty odd years later and spending time with friends means playing video games together, or going to a friend’s house where you both get out your tablets and ignore each other while sitting three feet apart.
I walk past restaurants and a family of four all have their phones out, addicted to checking social media and taking pics for Instagram and Snapchat, and ignoring everyone else at the table (not that anyone else would notice). I had coffee at a cafe the other day, and after paying I was told not to come again (as I’d have expected from the past), but to “follow” them on social media. Um ok…
Why does any of this pertain to being chronically ill you ask? Just this, in an age where addiction to the internet and “having to know everything” is commonplace, the world has lost its common courtesy. Let me explain…
Remember when it came out that Lady Gaga was chronically ill? There was an article about it in Arthritis magazine, leading many to believe she had Rheumatoid Arthritis. As a fact, she does not have RA, she’s got Fibromyalgia, a completely different disease. But following all the online sharing about how amazing she is was a slam against the rest of the arthritis community. Comments like “If Lady Gaga can push through the pain, why can’t everyone else?” Or, “Obviously she can handle it because she works out so much”. And my personal favorite, “You’re just not trying hard enough to be well”.
What was equally frustrating was if anyone did any real research regarding it that would find that Lady Gaga has in fact cancelled shows because of her disease. But that’s not the front social media shows us. They show someone “chronically ill who’s winning at life”. Thank you internet, for making the rest of us look like assholes. Like not making any comments about how her abundant wealth could afford such a lifestyle with concierge doctors, personal trainers, nutritionists, and cooks. I could maybe be winning at life if I had those too, thank you very much.
Then you’ve got those great internet ads that pop up telling you anyone with moderate to severe RA can live a normal life if they take this [insert drug here]. They show thin models lying on boulders at the beach with not one crippled knuckle in sight, telling the world that they’re basically cured.
God, that pisses me off!
Could we have a realistic commercial just once? Show an over weight woman (cause we all gain weight on those damn drugs), who has maybe just had a knee replacement, and the drug she’s tried has helped her be able to do household chores like laundry again. THAT is a realistic RA drug commercial.
But no one will see that commercial, because that commercial will never be made. Which means that all those healthy people who don’t have RA will see these ridiculous commercials with thin and fit apparently chronically ill people, and wonder why their friends with RA don’t try hard enough. They picture us sitting around all day, eating and watching tv, living off disability, and not attempting to get better.
Then they see those shareable links on Facebook about how people living with chronic illness would be fine if they just ate vegan, or tried cannabis oil, or joined a gym, and they send it to us with a ” have you looked into this?” Everyday. Every single day, I have an email, or a message on Facebook or Instagram, with a link.
Not one day goes by that it doesn’t feel like a slap in the face. Just because there’s a share link on the bottom of the page, does NOT mean you have to click it. Just once, before you feel that uncontrollable urge to share your opinion on someone else’s health, please just think. Think for a moment that if you were ill and you’d done all you can to find a cure or a way to better your situation, would you like people who don’t know your situation to send you “tips” on how to get better? Because I guarantee you, you wouldn’t.
If you really want to help someone, send them a card -and no not a damn ecard -like an actual written card. Pick up the phone and ask how they are doing, if they need help, or how their treatments are going. If you see something online and you feel like you should “share” it, why not instead read it yourself, maybe learn something for YOU.
This rant may be starting to sound like I hate the internet, but I use my iPhone as much as the next guy. I like Instagram, and I enjoy talking to friends on Facebook. But I don’t use it to make myself sound superior. There’s a line that need not be crossed, that a lot of people like to speed over. It’s the “I read this online so I’m an expert now” line. And oh how I wish that people would take a moment and think before those words come out, or that share button is clicked.
Can’t we all just take a moment and be humble. Put down our electronic addictions and read a book, have a conversation, and just be.