August 11, 2009
by Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, Adjunct Clinical Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
“Nothing is certain but death and taxes,” said Benjamin Franklin. Celine Dion’s version is, “Rain, Tax (It’s Inevitable).” My version is “Technological Innovation (It’s Inevitable)” when I see yet another announcement about a new social networking site or upgrade to an existing one. Plaxo, the poor stepchild to LinkedIn, had today’s innovation, with the addition of groups that members can set up and invite other members to join. This makes sense when people are congregating around common professional interests. But health issues?
I looked at the profile of someone who had connected to me in Plaxo and learned that he is member of “Living in Pain”. The group’s page provided the following description: “Anyone who has pain from any source, or a caregiver is welcome here. RSD, CRPS, RA, LUPUS , Fibromyalgia or any other condition. We are here to gather support and have fun at the same time.”
Support can have a huge impact on how someone copes with disease. Pain is particularly difficult because there might be no outward manifestation of it, such as with Rheumatoid Arthritis, as I learned from Diane Aronson, the past president of the Roadback Foundation.
But what I questioned here was not the existence of an online support group, but having one for people “living in pain” as part of a professional network. I was surprised people were comfortable being open about their health issues in this way and I wondered if it leads to better support, or the ability to connect online with peers in a more meaningful way than in a less professional setting. Possibly they even discuss how to cope with pain in the workplace. But I am concerned about the stigma of disease in the workplace and if playing membership in such a group in a professional profile is, using the acronym common to the online world, TMI (too much information).