I read with interest a report in the March 24, 2010, New York Times entitled, "Social Networks a Lifeline for the Chronically Ill". (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/25/technology/25disable.html?scp=1&sq=pew%20chronic&st=cse) In it, the reporter reveals a virtual world of health, wellness and spiritual support that I was unaware of. Being a relative "newbie" to this whole realm of "social networking", I find myself fascinated both with its ubiquity and its draw. I was also struck by the fact that the Pew Foundation had recently published a report evaluating this issue. (Available at www.pewinternet.org/reports/2010/chronic-disease)
I'm intrigued by some of the statements of those with chronic illnesses like diabetes and multiple sclerosis who feel comfortable enough with their on-line "friends" that they share intimate details of their lives. What mystifies me, is why these persons do not feel empowered, or do not have access to, "real world" and face-to-face support systems. A recurring theme in the article is that the internet social networks link persons with similar disorders, so that there is a pre-set empathy for what each person is experiencing.
My new charity, Possibilities Journey, Inc., (www.possjrny.org) is exploring how to return spirituality to health, wellness and wholeness. Implicit in this is the return of the role of faith communities to the practice of providing space for persons seeking these things to gather. Historically, that was one of the major roles of faith communities, but it has become less and less of a focus over the years. Connection, acceptance and unconditional love, once the cornerstones of faith communities, now seem to be almost totally lacking.
So I find myself wondering how to link this new technology with the concept of faith groups in a faith community. Could the stodgy old "support group" model become enlivened with on-line chatting in between meetings? Might the on-line group "drive" some face-to-face prograqms where all could benefit? Might social network sites for the chronically ill be moderated by health and spiritual professionals who could answer questions and provide care and comfort? What have I not even thought of...
With body, mind, and spirit being so inter-related, it makes sense how the social aspect of one's lifestyle could have a notable impact on the immune system. Check out the article below that I wrote for more perspective.