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I have frequently written about social media – people curating the “perfect life” on Instagram and Facebook, ganging up on people on Twiter, and of course, the mind-numbing time suck it can be. I have also written about my love of social media. Snapchat has added so much humor and connection to my life and is a positive addition to my days.

Of course, I have written that social media can be a savior to those of us who isolate socially, or are homebound, or have social anxiety. But there is something I found out this week that made me realize why I spend so much time reading the posts of others on social media – I find people with similar experiences to me.

I have written a little about the fact that while I am going through my breast cancer scare (that has lasted almost a year now) that I have found comfort, information, and support by reading about women in all different phases of breast cancer. Some of those women recently diagnosed, some in the midst of radiation or chemo, some survivors for over ten years. I have read story after story and followed some people’s journey all the way from diagnosis to their final treatment. I have learned about all the emotions that go into a cancer diagnosis, a mastectomy, hair loss, the thoughts of mortality, the fear, the sadness, the brain fog, etc. And on the other side, I have seen comments by hundreds of women, who like me, have had long drawn out tests that ended up being negative. I feel educated about this topic by a group of women across the globe.  I can’t say how much this has comforted and kept me sane during this process (my next test is on Dec. 13th.)

It hasn’t only been breast cancer, though. Earlier in the week, I read a post from a woman asking for suggestions on how to get through her anxiety. She wrote that she couldn’t tell the difference between excitement and fear/anxiety and her upcoming trip to Spain was causing her problems. What? I thought I was the only person on the planet that hated to be excited because I can’t distinguish that feeling from negative feelings. Excitement makes me nervous, anxious, shaky, uncomfortable and scared.

There are also the people I have met on social media who have schizophrenia. I can read what they post every day, and the things that they like and are concerned about and what they are doing with their time. Knowing other people with schizophrenia, and getting to experience bits and pieces of their lives, helps me feel less alone and not so different in the world. The people I have met on social media with schizophrenia are like me – they read, they socialize, they grocery shop, they have pets, and they do average and “normal” things. See, I’m not an exception, or an anomaly, I am like so many other people who experience symptoms every day but go about living a full life.

For all my complaints about social media, I think the benefits; I gain from it far out weight any criticism I have of it. If something can educate, comfort, support, and help you feel a sense of belonging and community,  that is not a bad thing. And it is all at my fingertips twenty-four hours a day – you can’t beat that, doctors and therapists don’t keep those hours, and I get every bit as much from social media without the office hours or co-pays.