Changing Our Worlds Face-to-Face (D-Blog Week #1)

Hooray, Diabetes Blog Week is here once again!

This is the 5th consecutive year where the online D-community hits the blogosphere to write about the same topic all at the same time. Thanks to Karen for once again coordinating the week's prompts and getting it all together.

Today, it's about Changing the World through Advocacy.

I'm all for D-advocacy, but this isn't the place you'll find a blog about that today. No, there's plenty of other blogs for that. There's a list here, and hell I even have an official-like post over at DiabetesMine today. Or, just try Google'ing "Diabetes Advocacy blogs" and see where that takes you.

No, today I'd rather explore the human condition. Specifically, how this whole online world is screwing with our ability to actually have real, human interaction with people.

Yes, it's apparently making us feel more lonely and may be messing with our brains!

This past weekend, I was up in Southeast Michigan for a JDRF conference and Mother's Day. While there, I had a chance to meetup with some good friends from college for breakfast. Part of our Coffee & Conversation was about the pervasive trend of online-everything -- emails, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, texting and interactive games. We would rather send an email to someone than picking up the phone, or even get up from our desk at work and go into someone's office to say something. We go out with friends and everyone is sitting at the same table, looking at their smartphones -- possibly even interacting with each other through the phones, and not just talking across the table.

We share everything on Facebook and social media, and check-in all over the place to give people looks into our worlds. And when we go to conferences, we are often doing the same thing instead of actually listening and engaging, and then talking to those around us as much as we could.

I'm guilty of all of this, except the phone-instead-of-talking across the table thing.

This is why I'm excited to sometimes just totally unplug, even if I do feel a little out of the loop and unconnected at first. And it's also why I am so adamant about offline D-meetups in local communities, and am so proud of the Adult D-Community we have here in Indy now that meets up several times a year for coffee, brunch, bowling, dinner/drinks, and so on. Offline and informal, just people talking and sharing and interacting like we were meant to before everything went virtual.

The Diabetes UnConference
It's also why I am excited to see the unveiling of the anticipated Diabetes UnConference, happening in Las Vegas next year in March. I saw a note about this over the weekend, and interacted with creator and fellow D-Advocate my friend Christel about the interaction aspect for those who may not be able to attend. Here's what she said:
"Bluntly put, but this event focuses on in-person attendee participation. No wifi in the room and we are discouraging laptops and smartphones during the interactive points of the conference.

The point of the conference is to create in-person peer-to-peer relationships that can be bolstered by the diabetes online community AFTER attending the conference. (I've been to events where people try to involve others through Skype or live stream... and this isn't one of those events. I expect there to be some heavy emotional discussions and want to ensure that all feel safe and comfortable in the room...)

I. LOVE. This.

In this day and age, it's a rare thing to have an innovative and new conference like this actually be designed to not be interactive with the online world. Sure, if you aren't there then you aren't a part of it in real time. But that's not a bad thing. Not at all. It encourages real, person-to-person communication that we are so often missing in this world... and often in this online community of people with diabetes.

That's the whole idea of D-Meetups (don't call them support groups - cringe), and it's one of the best parts of attending any official D-event or conference. Seeing people. Talking to people.

I've had issues with this in the past, reverting to my "journalist" role and trying to stay in the background to "cover" whatever it is that's going on. But in doing so, I've sacrificed interaction and conversation and probably friendships that could have been deeper and more enriching.

And I regret that.

Now, I advocate for it -- as much as is possible in this world of 24/7 news coverage and connections where everything is online, in the moment. Sometimes, being connected means not being connected in the ways that matter most.

This whole online movement has brought us together as a Diabetes Online Community, leading to the incredible patient-voice that we have now. But in so many ways, we have to remember not to lose the face-to-face and keep it real. Glad to see it happening in some places and corners of the world, including our own D-Community.

Here's my one thing about The D-UnConference...

Again, I can't even say how excited I am about this. And there looks to be a great group of well-known names involved in coordinating it, heading up the discussions, and all of that. While I love seeing all of these people and never tire of seeing or hearing what's on their mind, I do hope that we can bring in a good group of not-so-online people who haven't been heard from as often. So that we don't end with "the same DOC people" who are always the most visible on anything related to D.

Could everyone bring a friend? I don't know how that might work, since we are talking about coughing up cash to travel and stay there in Vegas for this. But if every D-Advocate who was interested in going could spread word and do our best to advocate for or even help someone else get there, someone who hasn't experienced the "DOC Effect" of peer support yet in the same way so many of us have, then this could be an even more powerful event.

Again, it's all about real connections, whether they start online or not. And I'm a fan of helping spread that word and make it happen, not just for our D-Community but our broader world.


Barb Wagstaff said…
Wow! This sounds amazing! There is absolutely nothing better than in real life meet ups. I sadly wish that things like travel, airfares, and living in rural areas didn't make this so difficult for many. For those who can do it...definitely unplug, listen, learn, and share! There is nothing better than being with people who "get it".
Colleen said…
Yup - I do hope that we can bring in a good group of not-so-online people who haven't been heard from as often. So that we don't end with "the same DOC people" who are always the most visible on anything related to D.

I agree.

I love our vocal d-people. What would we do without them. But I hope this turns into a real "meet-up" for all d's.

Because, I've already told my husband, we're going.
Lesley said…
I know that the biggest thing missing in my life is IRL d-meetups. I am envious of those who go to FFL & other conferences and can't wait until my daughter is old enough to go to d-camp. I haven't had IRL d-peeps for over 7 years and I miss that connectivity so much. Thank goodness for the #DOC but thank goodness also for people trying to create more in-person communities as well.
Unknown said…
This conference sounds amazing! I wish I could attend. I love the idea of D-meetups in real life. I'm definitely going to have to see if there are any in my area.
Karen said…
I love my on-line interactions, but I think I'd be lost without my real-life interactions as well. And I'm going to do all I can to make it to Vegas in March.

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