An Open Letter to Bloggers
Learning to blog, and how to read blogs, responsibly.
By Tom Karlya
March 2007 — Last week I was reading a diabetes blog on the internet. The author is a woman who, I guess, has been doing it for some time, and I was amazed at some of the items she wrote. I'm not going to mention the site because I like reading blogs. I also will garner no satisfaction for bashing someone who works so diligently, but the information was, well, just her opinion, and it was the wrong information for my daughter. She presented herself as an expert and the site disclaimer didn't do it for me because the small type buried on the site is not what is absorbed by the reader. The daily blog posts are what gets digested.
That got me to thinking. As a parent I search for information on the web constantly. If you search on Yahoo for ‘diabetes information', 244 million choices pop up; ‘diabetes help', 123 million results; diabetes blog, over 66 million; and in fact if you are looking to donate to a diabetes cause and you type in ‘diabetes donate' in the search engine you will be happy to know that you will be given almost 17 million entities in which to choose. With all of these choices, how do you evaluate what is truth and what is opinion where it really counts?
Webopedia, a site that touts itself as the #1 online encyclopedia dedicated to computer technology, defines "blog" as the following: "(n.)Short for web log, a blog is a web page that serves as a publicly accessible personal journal for an individual." Now it seems to me that it's pretty clear that a personal journal does not make someone an expert in any field merely based upon the fact that they write, or write often, about a particular subject. To those who blog, I ask that you never forget that fact. And to those who seek information I suggest the same advice.
Many people out there, me included, constantly hunt for information. Reader and writer beware of how you write and what you read. Please be careful how you position statements in your blogs so that one is always clear on what relates your own experience and what is based on the advice of professionals. How you manage your diabetes is not how others manage their diabetes or how they necessarily SHOULD manage their diabetes. Medical professionals spent a lot of energy, time, schooling, and resources to make themselves experts in their field; and those who write in newspapers and magazines have entire departments to verify what they write as true, factual accounts (and goodness knows even they get it wrong enough). Remember, you will be read by someone out there looking for information and may even possibly be desperate for help.
Many of the blogs I visit are successful in relaying everyday life escapades in personal experience and in also creating a helpful diabetes community with a mix of humor, human pathos, wit, and reflection, along with some sound suggestions. I think they're fantastic and many clearly know the boundaries. The resources supplied are limitless and heaven knows what we did for information in 1992 when Kaitlyn was diagnosed. The web is a powerful, mega-tool for all of us.
Readers, you have a responsibility, too. To those who are seeking information on the web, you should always be cognizant of the facts vs. opinions vs. merely personal accounts. Here is a news flash: Because you read it somewhere does not necessarily make it true. By the way, it's also very common to hear people speak at places like support groups who, by their own personal experience, have made themselves an authority as well. Be wary of these folks, too. At the end if the day it's about you and/or your child (if they have diabetes) and your health professional team. Make sure you know the correct players.
Blogs are great to read and I have learned a great deal about how people live with this insidious disease because I don't have it. It helps me better understand what my daughter may be thinking (or going through) regarding school, dating, and everyday life as someone who lives with diabetes. I only ask that all of you remind yourselves constantly that you must differentiate what you are sharing as your ‘personal journal' with us and what is scientific fact based in expert research (citing sources as needed); and constantly remind us as we share in your web blog journal.
And that's the truth … do you accept it as fact?
I'm a diabetes dad.
Read More of Tom's Articles.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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