Social Media and Chronic Illness: An Impact That Transcends a Screen

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Social media has played an instrumental role in chronic illness awareness and advocacy. Here’s how people are using these platforms for the better good.

Today, more than half of US adults live with at least one chronic illness, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you have a chronic illness, like heart disease, arthritis or a persistent mental health condition, you know exactly how isolating it can be. Before the digital era, it was nearly impossible to connect with others who had similar illnesses, let alone see the scale of chronic illness visibility. But social media is changing that. Many people with chronic illnesses have turned to social platforms to share their stories in the hope that it’ll prove helpful to anyone experiencing a similar situation.

The exchange of health information on social media has changed how we think about chronic diseases, especially for those who have them. On one side, so-called invisible illnesses, which were rarely talked about (and likely never heard of by many), are now making their way right to our screens. On the other hand, people who have these chronic illnesses are seeing that they’re not alone and now have an accessible tool that helps them feel more supported. We’re seeing awareness of chronic illness at a scale we never have before, because of how many people with chronic diseases are using these platforms to share their stories. Social media can help spread awareness about different conditions and treatment options, connect people with similar symptoms, and even offer support from others with the same conditions. 

“In my experience, social media has been revolutionary for chronic illness and disability,” said Marie Dagenais-Lewis, operations manager at Diversability and a self-identified disabled content creator. “It has allowed us to create community around our chronic illnesses/disabilities where we can find validation, support and power in our shared experiences that gives us a sense of belonging in a world that constantly excludes us.”

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