Last week, I read an amazing post by Ashlee Gadd that stopped me in my tracks. I’ll give you a moment to read it yourself as I don’t want to paraphrase her brilliance.
For the most part, Ashlee’s post is a series of rhetorical questions designed to make us think about the intentions people have when posting good news and bad news on social media. And think they made me.
I read this post two days after receiving the results of my last A1C lab test, and I have to admit, I really wanted to share the results with everyone. But last year I had written a blog post on DiabetesMine about how I wasn’t going to share my results anymore. The reason was because these results are often taken in isolation from both the work that someone is doing and also the results that came before. An A1C result of 8% might be a disappointment for someone who was 7.5% three months earlier, but if they had been 9% before, then it’s cause for celebration. Instead of sharing the actual result, I was only going to share the direction of the A1C and by how much.
I found that personally I often got upset when I would read commentary about someone’s A1C result. I remember one time someone had posted that they had never been above 7%, whereas I have never been below 7% and that really upset me. It felt like an unfair reaction to something that I should have been happy about — another PWD’s success — but I wasn’t. It was like Ashlee’s example of someone looking at Instagram and seeing only happy, beautiful pictures. An A1C result doesn’t reflect all the hard work and sacrifices that this particular person might endure. Instead, I’m only seeing a single image of an otherwise extremely complex existence with a chronic illness. Frankly, I should know better.
So then it made me think about my own attitude toward my A1C, especially my most recent one. My A1C dropped more than a full percent since my last result, and yet, as I wrote last week, I have still not accomplished my diabetes goal for the year. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do the math and realize that my A1C prior to this result was in the 8% range.
And the truth of the matter is that my A1C results have been in the 8% range for most of the last five years.
I have written that I don’t want to post my A1C because I don’t want to make anyone feel bad, that I don’t think it’s anyone’s business, and that I don’t think it promotes anything but unhealthy competition on who is doing better or who is perfect or who has it all figured out. (Hint: nobody has it figured out.)
My A1C results have not been something I have been proud of. Appointment after appointment have been a series of me telling my wonderful endocrinologist that I know what I need to do, that “life has been rough lately” or that “I’ve been traveling a lot” or “my apartment building flooded” and that things would be better next time. Occasionally that was true and I would knock a couple tenths of a percentage off my “score” but it has never landed me lower than a 7.8%.
The real reason that I didn’t want to share my A1C result with people isn’t because I was afraid of what people would think about themselves, I was afraid of what people would think about me. I knew my diabetes management wasn’t where I wanted it to be, and so I hid it under the guise of protecting others’ feelings on the subject. And there is some truth to that still. I do think we need to be aware of how our posts might affect other people. But at the same time, I think that we — especially the diabetes community, but also anyone else reading this blog — need to realize that being vulnerable with our struggles and our weaknesses are not bad things. They make us human, they make us real.
I’m not saying that our social media persona needs to be entirely negative or that you need to post all the skeletons in your closet, but I do think that we need to take a hard look at why we choose to omit something. Are we doing it because it’s not our place to say something about a certain topic? Are we doing it because it might be hurtful or misrepresent ourselves or someone else?
Many people have commented that blogs and other social media platforms — especially Pinterest — are feeding into the idea that bloggers lead perfect lives. But my question to you is: are we omitting the struggles and challenges in our lives for the very purpose of portraying a happy, perfect life? Are we omitting details about our lives because it’s the right thing to do, or are we doing it because it’s the false persona we want other people to believe we are?
I spent many years not sharing my A1C because I didn’t want to be the Girl with the Bad A1C. I was ashamed of it, and so I created a story that allowed me to hide it. People might not fully understand the reasons why my A1C results ended up so much higher than our target goal of under 7%, but I’m here to tell you that it did. I’m also here to tell you that I finally did something about it. I’m here to tell you that my A1C dropped from 8.3% in November 2012 to 7.2% in April 2013. I’m also here to tell you that my goal for my next appointment is to be under 7%. I’m here to tell you that I’m working diligently to do this by tracking my carbohydrates more closely, exercising regularly, logging my blood sugars using my RapidCalc app, and wearing my Dexcom CGM.
There are plenty of things that shouldn’t be shared online, for a variety of reasons. But the truth of the matter is that sometimes the one thing you don’t want anyone to know about is the one thing everyone needs to hear.