If you’re worried about social media, don’t understand it, used a particular platform in the past, but really didn’t get the hang of it, or think you’re getting by just fine in the celiac and gluten free communities without using it, you may want to reconsider.
I understand people feel social media can clutter up their lives or make them more dependent on their phones, tablets and computers. But new research from Sam Martin, a doctoral student at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, might be valuable for you.
A news release from the University says Martin presented her research late last month at the British Sociological Society’s Ageing, Body and Society Study Group Conference in London. A celiac herself, Martin investigated hundreds of thousands of tweets on Twitter, the platform that allows users 140 characters to get their message out.
“Harvesting 1,800 messages per hour from a 15km radius of two cities- London and New York, Sam studied the data and identified an information network discussing the availability of gluten-free food,” the news release said.
She found communities that helped each other out by spreading new information, supporting newly diagnosed celiacs, helping gluten free eaters find restaurants that could provide a safe meal, but also spreading the word if a person was cross-contaminated or glutened at a food establishment. In some cases a question will go out on Twitter, a second person will connect the person with the question, to someone with an answer.
If you already use Twitter or another social media platform, you know there is support out there. But if you are social media-averse, this might make you want to dip your toe in the Twitter waters, perhaps.
Twitter is a big organic hub of social digital interaction, Martin explained in the news release, that, when analyzed, it reveals a “human ecosystem of communication underneath — in this case uncovering a network of coeliacs [sic].” She says digital tools like social media and smartphone apps can really help gluten-free eaters self manage their diet. This information could also relate to folks with other food sensitivities or allergies.
Social Media and Gluten Free
I emailed Ms. Martin to ask about some hands-on practical use of the information she found.
I wondered, what are the best hashtags to use when investigating gluten free on social media. Martin explains they might be different for certain topics of conversation, but they work across the board for Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
“For conversations about gluten free food/restaurants/cafes, I have found the best hashtags are #glutenfree and #gfree,” Martin says. “If you want to search shared links to medical or media articles about the gluten free diet, then search #gluten or #glutenfree.” But if you are searching for specific symptoms and their relation to celiac disease or being glutened Martin says,:
- #gluten AND #celiac
- #gluten AND #x-contaminated
- #gluten AND #symptoms
Martin’s top three tips to get the most out of using social media for this topic?
- “Engage with the gluten free community out there. Join in conversations on social media from the #glutenfree or #celiac communities on Twitter to the Gluten Free-themed Facebook pages. There are helpful, supportive networks in many places.”
- “Utilise [sic] your smartphone camera and share information on gluten free finds with the rest of the community out there. Sometimes a photograph of a new product, or food at a new restaurant shared on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook can make the world of difference to a newbie or someone else who needs some help.”
- “Pinterest is an excellent source of scrapbook information for gluten free recipes for all holiday seasons of life occasions. I have found some amazing things on there and return to the growing gluten free community on Pinterest to both share and borrow ideas many times.”
The Savvy Celiac’s Gluten Free Social Media Tips
I don’t think I would claim to be an expert at social media, but I do use it often enough. Here are some quick thoughts I have:
- Martin mentioned that Celiac.com uses social media well, I would add to that list: National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Center. The magazine I write for, Gluten-Free Living also pushes out valuable content, news and recipes. These organizations are also on Facebook if that is more your thing. Just look for the social media logos (what do they look like? see logos pictured in the upper right image) on their websites to start following them.
- To follow The Savvy Celiac: Click here for Facebook, I am at @AmyLeger on Twitter and @AmyLeger on Instagram and AmyLeger111 on Pinterest.
- I think social media is for anyone. However, if you live in a small town, you may feel less alone in the gluten free world if you get involved in social media.
- Follow your favorite gluten free companies on social media to get deals and great recipes
- Don’t let Negative Nellies get to you. Yes there will be people who comment on your Facebook posts or Tweets about gluten free. Most will be very supportive if you are asking questions or sharing information. But sometimes there is a “pill” out there that can ruin your day if you let them. My tip is to ignore and move on. Getting into a Twitter debate doesn’t make anyone look very good, in my opinion.
- Don’t become a Negative Nellie! Some people can stop a supportive comment streak cold by being argumentative or by making others feel they are doing everything wrong all the time. Take commenting in stride, offer suggestions. When you comment if you can link to the facts to back up your opinion, I say– even better!
You may be reading this right now because a friend emailed it to you or maybe even printed it out. If it is time for you to get on the social media bandwagon for gluten free and you need additional help — big picture, click here for information on what social networking is.
Best of luck!