RA & Technology: Finding Support & Understanding Online
Technology is neither good nor bad. It is like everything else. It depends on how you use it. Personally, I am thankful for the technology tools available to us today. If our hands are hurting, we can use the software, Dragon Naturally Speaking, to communicate. This software is relatively inexpensive and easy to use.
Skype is not something I use often, but I enjoy talking to far-away friends and seeing their faces from time to time. I have a friend in England who has a lovely English accent. I so enjoy listening to her talk and seeing her smile. Nothing like hearing an English accent when one is used to the “American English” we speak in the states.
We all know how autoimmune diseases can leave us isolated from friends and family. Technology can helps us stay in touch. There are many online support groups. Facebook has several groups available. Some of the groups are “disease specific.” There are groups for Sjogrens, Lupus, Connective Tissue Disease, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Some groups are more general and have members diagnosed with any type of autoimmune disease.
These forums offer a safe and private place for people to ask questions and share their lives. Many people find friends in these groups. I have seen people find online acquaintances who live close to them. Sometimes they “meet up,” and develop a friendship beyond the Facebook world.
There is one thing you need to remember when communicating via computer in type only. You will need to be open minded and not take things personally. You cannot hear the tone of anyone’s voice, and this can lead to misunderstandings. Generally, I find people in these groups to be informed and compassionate. There are many groups. You can choose the one that best fits your needs.
Email is a great way to stay in touch with old friends. I sometimes get two or three emails a day from my college roommate, who is still working. She makes me laugh. Margaret lives in Georgia, but technology enables us to stay in touch with each other. I have learned a lot about southern culture by talking to my old friend.
If you find yourself needing to connect with others who understand your autoimmune disease, try turning on your computer. There is a cyber world out there that can be used for good. You can encourage, and be encouraged. You will discover you are not alone.
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Vanessa wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).