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Diabetes and Twitter: 101.

One of the Friends for Life sessions that I co-lead with my favorite tall guy, Scott Johnson, was about finding diabetes support through social media.  (More on that session this week, but I wanted to get this post up today because there’s a diabetes chat that takes place on Wednesday nights.)  While that session had it’s own discussion points and a broad definition of what social media really is, the same question came up over and over again:


It wasn’t even a whole question, more like a word thrown out to the crowd and lingering there, confused about where it should roost.  Twitter is a completely and utterly confusing concept to people who aren’t involved in that method of communication – hell, it’s chaos for those of us who are familiar with it, too.  But aside from questions about how to start a community or blog, and how control sharing on Facebook, some people really wanted to know how to navigate the muddy waters of Twitter.

In efforts to answer some of those questions from the session, I wanted to give a little Diabetes and Twitter 101 here, with links to resources, to help those who want to find people talking about diabetes on Twitter.  Here’s the crash course:

slider image twitter

What is Twitter?  Twitter is a method of online communication where you share status messages in 140 characters – and no more than 140. It’s sharing in snippets; it’s microblogging.  It’s borderline annoying because you end up completely over sharing (“I thought about eating a ham sandwich in the alleyway … but then didn’t.”), but it’s a very unique, very real-time, very insightful way of connecting with people.

  • Why would I want to share these details online?  That’s a really good question.  Some people are very comfortable sharing details of their life, and links to things they think are interesting, which is where Twitter comes in.  It’s like an RSS feed for your brain, and it helps lead you to new info on topics that interest you and from people who do the same.  (If you’re concerned about privacy, you can always keep your account “locked” instead of “public.”)
Hashtag central

Diabetes-related hashtags include word/phrases as obvious as “diabetes” but may also include things like “#ffl11” and “#sweatabetes.”

  • What is a Tweet?  A Tweet is one, single status update from a Twitter account.  Oh, and it’s also the sound that a bird makes.
  • What is an @reply?  When you put the “@” symbol in front of someone’s user name, it tells that person that the Tweet is directed at them.  It’s like sending a 140 character email, in public.  (Also, you know if a Twitter account is shifty when they don’t have any @replies and/or aren’t following anyone.  Twitter is a conversation, not a billboard.)
  • What is a DM?  A DM (or “direct message”) is a 140 character private message that you can send to a fellow Twitterer.  You can only direct message people who are following you back.

How do I join, and what do I do there?  To sign up for a Twitter account, go to Twitter and register.  You’ll sign up, you’ll be shuffled to your homepage, and there you can post your first status update, find people to follow, or just lurk on other people’s accounts.

So I’m on Twitter.  How do I find my fellow PWDs?  Okay, so once you’re on Twitter, now you can dive Tweet-first (?) into the diabetes community there.  Finding your fellow PWDs can seem challenging, but there are tricks to help you sniff out the pancreatically challenged and those who support them.

  • You can use Twitter Search to seek out the diabetes community by searching for specific search terms or hashtags.  Try searching for something as simple as “diabetes,” or something as specific as “Dexcom.”  You can also conduct searches right on the Twitter homepage, like for “diabetes.”
  • You can also use the mother of all diabetes hashtags:  #dsma.  “#dsma” stands for Diabetes Social Media Advocacy, and it’s the brainchild of Ms. Cherise Shockley.  On Wednesday nights at 9 pm EST, hundreds of people with diabetes log on to their Twitter accounts and crowdsource answers to questions asked by the DiabetesSocMed Twitter account.

It’s pretty simple:  The @DiabetesSocMed account asks questions and numbers them, and then when people respond, they just answer with the question number and the #dsma hashtag in their Tweets.  For example:

An example of the #dsma Twitter discussion questions

There’s the question (Q1) and my answer, tagged with both “Q1” and “#dsma.”  The only trick is that during the actual #dsma chats, there are many participants, so there are many questions and answers streaming at once.  It can be a little overwhelming at first, but after a few run throughs, you’ll be a pro.

  • And even though you’re using Twitter, you aren’t limited to using “just Twitter” to send out or read your Tweets.  There are a lot of third-party applications for Twitter that you can download to your desktop or use a browser for.  Here are a few of the ones I use:
  • Tweetdeck.  This is my favorite application and the one I use most for Twitter.  It’s clean, easy to use, and runs pretty seamlessly on my laptop.
  • Seesmic.  I used to use this one all the time, but I kept blowing out my API.  (What does “API” stand for?  Available Peanut Index?)  Seesmic can also be used to update your Facebook and Twitter status, so it’s kind of handy for all things social media.  (Tweetdeck can, too, actually.)
  • TweetChat.  This is a web application where you can type in the specific hashtag you want to follow (for example: #dsma) and all of the Tweets tagged with that hashtag stream on the TweetChat page.
  • Twitpic.  This app helps you share photos on your Twitter feed.  You can take photos on your phone or upload them from your desktop and ship them straight to your Twitter stream.  (There is also a pile of apps for Twitter using your smartphone, but I know what I know, and I have no idea which ones are good or bad.  Consult your local TechNerd for some details and a cupcake.)

Phew!  Crash course on Twitter and finding your fellow PWDs?  There’s at least a start.  I hope this helps, and if you’re looking to jump right in, you can join the #dsma chat tonight at 9 pm – the only thing we’re missing is YOU.  Join the 140 character conversation … and make sure you have coffee on hand.  It’s the most whirlwind hour of diabetes discussion on the web.

(And I’m adding a diabetes Twitter list to the blogroll page, so if you’re a PWD with an active Twitter account, please email me your Twitter handle and I’ll add you to the list!  You can find me on Twitter at @sixuntilme.)

House Rules.

All posts are moderated daily, by Kerri Sparling.  I am not operating as a health professional.

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Author and Webmaster
Kerri Morrone Sparling (me!) is the creator and author of this website.  I am also the webdesigner, which is why the site looks a little strange sometimes.

Contact Kerri

Looking to contact me?  You can email me at kerri [at] sixuntilme [dot] com.  You can contact me by mail at Kerri Sparling, 716 Centre of New England Blvd, Coventry, RI 02816.  Keep in mind, I am not a doctor and I have no medical training.  I am a person living with type 1 diabetes.

Purpose of this Website

The purpose of this site is to help people with diabetes feel less alone with their disease.  Diabetes is a physically challenging and emotionally intense disease to manage, and a little support goes a long way.  Six Until Me offers me a way to connect with other diabetics, and an outlet through which to share my diabetes life.  Almost all of these posts are talking about my personal experiences with diabetes, but when I’m referring to research developments, new technology, or other websites, these sources are clearly identified and linked to.  Six Until Me is not responsible for the content on any linked sites, or any sites that link to

The information provided on is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional.

Privacy doesn’t store your personal information and doesn’t offer reader information to outside sources.  A statcounter is on this site, and it tracks the IP address, country and/or state location of the user, and any keywords that lead to Six Until Me.  However, this information is only used by Kerri Sparling and her team.  We don’t sell your info.  Promise.

Funding is funded by Kerri Morrone Sparling and this site is hosted on the Movable Type blogging platform, hosted on Liquid Web.

Advertising Policy accepts advertising and labels all advertisements and sponsored links as such.  All content found on Six Until Me is original and unpaid, unless specified.  Any questions can be emailed to Kerri at kerri(at)sixuntilme(dot)com.

The owner of this blog would like to disclose the following existing relationships. These are companies, organizations or individuals that may have an impact on the content of this blog.  We are employed by or consult with: dLife, diaTribe, Incendia Health, Agamatrix, DexCom, BetterHealth LLC, Johnson & Johnson, Lifescan, Animas Corp, WEGO Health.  Please note:  These companies do not dictate the content found on Six Until Me.  All posts on SUM are honest and credible, despite any existing professional relationships.

DexCom is a sponsor of and provides DexCom products to Kerri.  All content is that of the author and not reviewed or approved by DexCom.  Animas Corporation and Kerri also have a sponsorship agreement – details outlined here. Lifescan and Kerri also have a sponsorship agreement.

– last updated on May 9, 2013


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