Social media can be a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, especially if you aren’t able to go out and see people as much. It can feel overwhelming if you need to let a lot of people know updates about your situation, so you might find it helpful to use social networking sites to communicate with many people at once.
You could set up a group conversation on Facebook or WhatsApp, or send out group emails to tell friends or family how you’re getting on so that you don’t have to contact them all individually.
You may not always want to talk about your illness and sometimes you might want to remind people that you have other things in your life than cancer. Looking at friends’ social media activities can help you to feel connected and know what’s going on in their lives. You could ask them about things you’ve seen that they’re going, or keep up with shared interests like music or sports.
Writing a blog, either under your own name or anonymously, can be a really therapeutic experience. You may find it a good way of reaching out to friends and family, without having to directly speak to one person in particular. It can also allow you to connect with people you may never have met before who can offer support or advice.
Blogs allow people to leave comments underneath individual posts. This means there’s less pressure to reply to individual comments and you can read and digest them in your own time. People won’t always expect a reply, but they know you will be reading them.
If you don’t feel like writing something, you can also post pictures and upload audio, graphics or videos. Sites like Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube can give you a chance to be creative and focus on things you enjoy. You could also ask a close friend or family member to write a blog on your behalf, if you aren’t feeling well enough.
Joining the CLIC Sargent online community or other discussion forums can give you the opportunity to talk to others who are in a similar situation. Many people use forums to ask questions, tell their story, or as a safe space to express things that they’re finding frustrating. They can provide a very positive environment where young people can support each other.
The responses you receive won’t necessarily be the ‘right answers’ and it’s important to remember that some may be misleading. Contributors on unmoderated forums may make unproven medical claims about ‘miracle cures’, so always check any information you see with an accredited organisation, like a charity or public body.
You might want to join CLIC Sargent’s online community, which is for 16-24 year olds who have, or have had, cancer. The discussion boards are moderated to make sure that harmful posts are removed, and you can choose to post anonymously. You can also search through hashtags to find the topics that are relevant to you.
You might also want to think about what will happen to your social networking accounts after you die.
Facebook now allows you to choose a legacy contact to manage your account after you die. They’ll be able to do things like pin a post on your timeline, respond to new friend requests and update your profile picture but they won’t post as you or see your messages.
Or you may want your social networking and email accounts to be closed down after you die. If you don’t want a Facebook account, you can request to have your account permanently deleted. You can manage this and legacy contacts in the security settings.
You could also write down any passwords for a trusted friend or family member, or set up password managers on your computer or an online space and leave details of this in your Will.
Some people use social media in the same way they would a diary, but it’s worth always remembering that once you say something in a public setting, it’s there for all to see. Being honest and open isn’t a bad thing, but in moments when you’re feeling vulnerable and upset you may find more comfort in talking privately to friends and family.
It’s important to understand the privacy settings on your social media account or to speak to someone who knows how to set them so that you are happy with who can see what. This can help protect you from online trolls who sometimes leave nasty comments just to get a reaction. Think about who you want to see your updates – your friends, the general public or a select group of people?
Reviewed September 2015. Next planned review 2017.