I am currently a doctoral candidate at the Heller School at Brandeis University, and my area of interest is the intersection of social media and health. That can mean a lot of things depending on whom you ask, but for the purposes of this dissertation I am primarily interested in how patients, caregivers, and advocates use social media tools such as Twitter. More specifically, I’m exploring BCSM in depth, through interviews and watching the public activity that happens online in places like Twitter.
I’ve always been interested how people connect, and what happens when these connections take place. I’ve also always had an interest in technology and studying the ways it facilitates communication. As a public health researcher often focused on marginalized/underserved communities, it was clear from an early stage that previously isolated individuals were using the Internet to seek information, share their experiences, and form online communities. The impact on these individuals was tremendous. I was hooked.
I’ve been on Twitter since 2006 (goofy first tweet below), and in that time I’ve watched it grow both in size and the reasons people use it. I first used it personally to remain connected with friends, but quickly expanded my use for professional purposes as well when I recognized the potential for connecting with colleagues and others with shared interests.
Given my health interests, I noticed when BCSM came on the scene in 2011. Since then I have been a periodic contributor as well as a frequent lurker. As the community has grown, I have become increasingly interested in how others, particularly those who are personally experiencing a cancer diagnosis, use the #bcsm hashtag. There is a lot of conversation happening with regards to the potential for using social media for health related purposes, but not a lot that links use with outcomes. This research is a part of an effort to address that question.