The DOC is a moveable feast. I thought about this the other night during the OzDOC tweetchat, when Frank directed us through a series of prompts about what the community offers us.

When I first dipped my toe into the world of DOC, I was cautious. What was this world and who were the people who populated it? As it turned out these were ‘my people’ in that they understood the daily challenges of living with diabetes. Most of the online discussion was diabetes and I lapped it up.

I jumped in – completely and unashamedly – a short time later, desperate to connect with as many people as possible and hear as many stories as possible.   I participated in tweetchats every week, I read blogs and commented on them, and, if the opportunity presented itself, I met up with people that I only knew from a small avatar and their Twitter handle.

Before long, I had a huge network of new friends who were, in some ways, living parallel lives, faced the same challenges and frustrations and wanted to celebrate the same victories.

I’ve been part of this world now for a few years and have always been grateful for the support and love that I receive. After yesterday’s post, so many people reached out to check that I was okay, offer their support and even ask if there was something they could do.

But the way I interact does change at times. Sometimes, I am more diligent about participating and encouraging dialogue. Other times, I just put things out there and leave them, not really wanting to engage in discussion.

As much as the online world is wonderful, it can be overwhelming. A need to pay forward – and pay back – the love and support is compelling. I feel guilty when I don’t respond to comments on my blog, reply to tweets or answer Facebook messages or emails. But there are times that I simply cannot interact as much as I would like to. And that is okay.

I have come to realise that my online world is similar to my in real life world where I have started to consolidate the people I regularly see and hold near and dear. As I have gotten older, I have realised the importance of having a few really close and trusted friends rather than a huge number of more casual friends.

One of my best friends is on secondment in France at the moment and I feel a huge and sometimes aching gap because she is so far away, even though we message frequently and I bullied her into joining Instagram so I could see what she was up to. That’s the way it is when you tighten the network of people who know everything – losing one (even just for a few months; even in digital times) is very noticeable.

Sometimes, the two worlds (the online and the IRL) cross over. Some of my nearest friends – the ones I need like I need air – are DOC friends. We may have met on Twitter, but after a few, or even just a couple, of face-to-face catch ups, their friendships are invaluable. I cannot imagine a week where Annie and I are not messaging furiously, or Cherise doesn’t send me some random photo and a quirky comment, or Kerri doesn’t reply to a rant of mine with #RageRenza. Grumpy’s irreverent comments occur most days making me laugh, and Alecia’s messages make we want to start a countdown to the next time I’m in NYC so we can hang out together, drink orange flavoured drinks and take photos with shaggy-haired jazz musicians.

These women (and Grumps) are flung far and wide. We may have been connected by diabetes, but that is certainly not why I consider them friends. Diabetes was the catalyst, but I know that if that were the only commonality, the friendships would have fizzled out by now. 

This exchange with the wonderful (and offline as much as online friend) Georgie explains it (with a complete lack of eloquence from me, of course)…

I realised the other night in the tweetchat that after throwing myself into the DOC, I have backed off a bit. I don’t join into every discussion as I once would have; I still read lots of blogs, but don’t comment much anymore; I don’t ask all that many questions anymore; I really only to the #OzDOC chat, and I sometimes go weeks without popping in to say hi. This may be temporary – it may be just where I am at the moment. But I am getting what I need. And I am lucky the community allows for that.