While there are definitely mixed reviews of social media, one thing is true: It enables people to connect with one another regardless of their location, which can make it an incredibly valuable source of emotional support. For those without certain resources, the Internet can provide a wealth of free information that is accessible 24/7. However, the benefits of social media can be a double-edged sword, particularly for cancer patients.
According to a recent study conducted by the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, which measured the effects of online communication among breast cancer patients, women who share their experiences online reported feeling more deliberate about their treatment decisions and more satisfied with their choices. Online communities such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow patients to connect with one another and share stories and experiences in what feels like a safe space. So for many with cancer, social media has ultimately become another useful coping tool.
But while the ability to connect with others in similar situations can be beneficial, often people who use social media outlets do not take into consideration the impact that it can have on other areas of their lives later down the road. Posting about one’s diagnosis on Facebook, where the assumption is your “friends” are seeing the information, can result in unintentionally disclosing your health status to people with whom you otherwise may not have shared such personal information. It is critical to understand that the Internet, which includes social media platforms, is public domain; so while these platforms offer access to emotional support, they can also generate unwanted results. Asking yourself if you would be comfortable having a potential future employer know about your cancer is an important step when thinking about connecting with others online.
For information on the best ways to protect your privacy when dealing with a cancer diagnosis, consult our section on Your Online Footprint. You can also download or order our Living and Working with Cancer Workbook, which includes a guide to sharing a diagnosis online, as well as our Job Search Toolkit, which discusses managing your online presence during a job search.
To familiarize yourself with online-privacy best practices, join us for our upcoming Balancing Work & Cancer webinar session on Disclosure, Privacy & Online Brand, on Wednesday, August 10th at 1:00 PM ET. Registration is free and easy!