How to Connect When You Have No Connection

By Barby Ingle, Columnist

A friend of mine who is going through a rough time physically and financially has shared a thought about the people who get left behind.

We often assume that everyone is online. The truth is about 16% of American adults do not use the internet and most of them are elderly, disabled and in households with incomes of less than $30,000, according to a study by Pew Research.

What can those who have limited or no access to the online world do to stay e-connected? I did a little research and found some ways that may be helpful.

As an Extreme Time Cheater, I like to save time, effort, and energy. Although I have internet access at home, living with chronic pain still limits my life and resources. For instance, if my internet service were to go down, I don’t have a vehicle to get to a library and I’d be out of luck. My living situation is very rural and isolated.  

One of the things I would miss immediately is the ability to Google a location, fact or a phone number. When phone books come to the house from our phone company, I typically put them in the recycle bin, but I will keep my next phone book for the time when I may actually need it.

When it comes to groceries, I typically order them online to save time. Some delivery services have a fee, so I use Safeway because they offer free delivery on orders over $100. When there is a charge it is typically $5 to $10, which is very reasonable. They also let customers call in their orders if they don’t have internet access, and they don’t allow their delivery drivers to accept tips. I have my driver bring the groceries right into my kitchen. 

Next time you are at a doctor’s office or hospital, check to see if they have any support groups for people with your condition or chronic pain in general. Even if you can’t keep up with the group online, you can see them at local meetings. Having someone to connect with on an emotional level that is going through similar life challenges is really important when you are isolated most of the time. 

You can keep a hand written calendar to keep track of doctor appointments and life events on paper. Back before the internet I would take blank paper and a straight edge and make my own calendars to stay organized.  

When it comes to phone numbers, who memorizes them these days? But if you lose your cell phone service, what can you do? I keep a written notebook of all of the phone numbers and addresses in my cell phone so that if I ever lose it, I have a backup in writing and can still make a call to family or friends when needed.

Finally, advocacy. We often ask, “Where are all of the pain patients?” Why aren’t more people involved in advocacy efforts? I would venture to say that a large number are physically and financially limited, and many do not have that e-connection we all covet. How do we reach them and how can they help spread the word about chronic pain and its effects on society?

People with internet access should speak up for those who can’t be heard, recognizing the commonalities that we all share. Offline advocates can look at more traditional strategies, such as setting up a meeting at your legislator’s office or speaking to a local support group. Offline advocating is just as important as sharing a tweet or blog, or posting a comment online. 

Remember that not everyone is plugged into the chronic pain community online. Those who are not still need support, education, and assistance. They also need to have their voices heard. Let’s pay more attention and start listening to those who are currently e-voiceless.  

Barby Ingle suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and endometriosis. Barby is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and president of the International Pain Foundation. She is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics.

More information about Barby can be found at her website.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.