Surgery for sure. Apparently this is quite serious and disturbing. This account may be dark awhile.And I meant it. I assumed that if I wasn't too overcome with pain to care about social networking, then I'd at least choose to be stoic and not inflict the details of my illness upon my friends.
Who was I kidding? I'm not one to endure pain silently—or, really, anything silently. It's why I blog. I'm a compulsive oversharer. Indeed, my first update to Facebook—dictated to my wife, apparently, through a morphine haze—came just a couple of hours after surgery.
Surgery done. Colostomy! Diverticulitis! Pain! (sec:jcm)And over the next 24 hours, there were 26 comments appended.
Here's the thing: Surgery is an isolating thing. You're taken away from the people you love, drugged and cut open. After that you have days spent watching TV, giving blood, and drifting in and out of consciousness. The pain was the worst thing about surgery; the colostomy bag was the second. The loneliness could've ranked right up there with it.
But it didn't, quite. Because I kept posting, three and four times a day, to both Facebook and Twitter—and, thank God, folks kept posting right back at me.
Just a few hours after my first update, in fact, President Obama took the airwaves to announce the death of Osama bin Laden. Slightly more alert this time—and leaving the TV on around-the-clock to reduce my sense of dislocation—I posted this at 12:40 a.m.:
News flash: Osama bin Laden was hiding in my gut.Probably not that funny, I realize. But I'd realized that I'd probably be giving folks regular updates on my recovery. And I'm not an optimist. But I didn't want to scare people away. So I figured a few jokes sprinkled in amongst the self-pity might be helpful.
I wrote about the food. I wrote about my roommates. I wrote about feeling sorry for myself. I wrote about the bad TV. And people kept responding. It was absolutely what I needed.
Social networking's limitations were also helpful. I've been writing longer blog posts this week, but while I was in the hospital I could barely stay awake or concentrate for five minutes at a time. (There were a couple of times I actually did fall asleep while updating my social networks, only to snap awake when I dropped my iPhone in my lap.) One-hundred-forty characters allowed me to communicate without spending the kind of energy required from an actual hospital visit. I could dip in and out of the communications stream as I was able.
Does this mean anything? I don't know. I Googled around to see if there was any link between a patient's social networking practices and their health outcomes, but it doesn't look like the kind of thing that's been researched. (Yet.) All I know is that I've had a love-hate relationship with Facebook and Twitter. It's why I invented "Single-Tasking Sundays" for myself.(Suspended for the duration.) But when I went into the hospital, I was able to take all my living relationships with me, staying in conversation and feeling the love. It was great.