Several friends of mine have used Facebook to chronicle their cancer journey and remember loved ones whom they have lost. The social networking site provides an avenue for staying in touch with friends and family who may live across the country or around the world.
Facebook can play a key role in helping mesothelioma patients and their families as they navigate a difficult life journey filled with treatment, difficulty and loss. Often you can find support from family and friends by simply logging into your account.
A 2011 study titled “Seeking Support on Facebook: A Content Analysis of Breast Cancer Groups” and published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research explains that online communities are “virtual social spaces where people come together to get and give information or support, to learn or to find company.”
Researchers identified 620 such groups containing more than 1 million members. The groups focused on fundraising, awareness, product/service promotion or patient/caregiver support.
Here are some ways you and your loved ones can take advantage of the support Facebook offers:
Post Status Updates on Your Timeline
Once you create a Facebook account, you can search for friends and family members and ask them to become your friends. You’ll want to check the privacy settings on your account, so that your posts are limited to your friends list, if that’s what you prefer.
If you are battling mesothelioma, you can write posts on your own Timeline and Facebook will display these posts to your friends. If your spouse or another family member is the one fighting cancer, you should ask them before you post about their journey.
Post Messages on Someone Else’s Timeline
If your loved one is fighting cancer, you could post a comment or a note of encouragement on their Facebook Timeline. Just find them in your friends list, then navigate to their page to leave a note.
If the person has not shared their cancer battle on Facebook yet, you should keep your comments generic. Some good examples include:
- “Praying for you!”
- “Sending lots of love your way.”
- “I’m thinking of you today and wishing you well.”
Share Someone Else’s Post
If you see a post in your News Feed that you really like, you can feel free to share the post with your friends. Just click ‘Share,’ which appears below the post. You can also add a comment when you share a post.
Be sure to ‘Like’ The Mesothelioma Center’s Facebook page. Then, you can share those posts with your friends list.
Create a Private Group
A few of my friends have set up private groups on Facebook, so that a select group of friends and family can view their updates, but not all of their friends. For example, many people wish to share their cancer journey with their close friends, but not with their co-workers or extended family.
To create a group, go to your home page, then go to the Groups section on the left side menu and click Create Group. Click + Create New Group at the top of the page. A window will appear, where you’ll be able to add a group name, add members and select the privacy settings for your group. Click Create when you’re done.
There are three privacy options for groups on Facebook, so be sure you select the parameters you desire for your group.
Public groups allow everyone to join and everyone to see all of your posts. Closed groups display your posts to a select group of people. Others can see the name of your group and can ask to join. Secret groups will not be seen by anyone unless a member of the group adds someone.
Create a Legacy Contact
Early this year, I lost a friend to cancer. In the past, Facebook would have disabled her account. But thankfully Facebook recently updated its policy, and loved ones can continue to post on my friend’s page.
Facebook now allows users to pick a “legacy contact” to handle their page after they die. This person would also be able to update photos on the page. As we wait for a cure, mesothelioma patients may wish to consider selecting a legacy contact.
To do so, open “settings” and look for “security.” You’ll see “Legacy Contact” as the last option on the list. You can either select someone to manage your account or check a box to delete your account when you die.
If you need additional help with Facebook, consider asking a tech-savvy friend or family member. They usually know exactly what to do! You can also check out the Facebook help page.
This is the second of a two-part series about Facebook and cancer.Read Part One. You can always comment or share your story on The Mesothelioma Center’s Facebook page.