My post about the diabetes online community (DOC) has elicited a good amount of feedback, much of which is from people who are quickly jumping to defend the DOC. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with not finding what you wanted when turning to the DOC. Has our reputation gotten ahead of us? Are people coming to the DOC expecting miracles? Or, perhaps more realistically, 100 new friends on Facebook*? Have we somehow become too big for our britches? These questions have been going through my head today as I have tired to define what the DOC is. But I think the answer is this: It cannot be defined. It is a living, evolving thing without a strand of DNA, a blueprint, or a plan.

I consider myself a part of the DOC because I chose to be. I expect the same of anyone else who participates in the community, no matter what platform they use. There is no club, no secret handshake, no method to the interactions. And as a member of this community, my actions and words should be kind in their intent, I will not try to misguide someone, nor will I stay silent if I feel misperceptions are being perpetuated. Sure, there will be people who disagree with me. There will be unsolicited advice I never wanted to hear, and there will be people who may try to give me medical advice and have no place in doing so.

The DOC often relies on hashtags. It brings people together around a single shared thing. Sometimes that is not enough to build friendships, but other times those two little words “me too” are like an effing miracle. And that’s what brings me back.

But it is not perfect. To use a term that I hate and hear far too often, the DOC became what it is “organically.” That doesn’t just mean it happened of its own accord – if we take it literally, it also means it happened without pesticides, and so we very well may have some unintentional pests. The DOC is a rocky community to say the least, but it is still one I love and enjoy. And I am part of it because I choose to be, knowing that I can take a break or remove myself at any time I want to. I have seen people come and blossom among peers in a virtual space, and I have seen people leave after years of being active. I’ve also seen people come and go quickly, as I suppose they simply needed to do. It’s anyone’s choice, and I support that.

Much of the time I’ve spent in the DOC has been silent. I am often lurking, following conversations that I’ll ask Chris about later, or trying to determine if the topics are something I really care about. I started this because at first I was balancing my professional interactions with my personal ones. Now I have found that I am often cynical about what’s being said, so it’s best that I stay silent. But I’m still there. And I am still a part of this community that I don’t believe should have a definition.

I anticipate that this may be an on-going topic for a while. I found that Tom also posted about it yesterday and Mollie did a piece on it today, as did Chris. It is my goal to be open to the feedback that is offered, to see where we have room for improvement and to embrace the challenges that may lie ahead. Not that I own the DOC – but then again, no one does.

*For the record, I should state now that I am a bit closed off on Facebook and will only friend people I’ve met in person. Not a hater, just prefer to stay that way. That said, hit me up on Twitter and it’s on!