An opinion piece by MStranslate co-founder, Brett Drummond 

As you may have seen recently, we have been running a series of MS: Many Stories articles written by one of our community members, Andrew.  As he mentioned in his first piece, this originated from a chance encounter online, which led to a 30 minute coffee that extended into a 3 hour chat.  Since then, Andrew has become a strong advocate for the work that MStranslate does and accepted my invitation to share his experiences.

His second article, which we published last weekend (January 28), focussed on fatigue and the strategies he uses to overcome it.  As part of the process of uploading the piece to our website, we had to choose a feature image to partner the text.  Perhaps not surprisingly, we selected a stock image that showed a man looking tired and worn out.

Later, I heard from Andrew, who explained to me that he would have used a different image to accompany the article.  In his mind, the image chosen represented something negative, whereas people are more drawn to and prone to share articles that have pictures that contain humour or fantasy.  Whilst I don’t necessarily disagree with Andrew, it did lead me to explain a situation to him, that I thought was also worth sharing as an opinion piece.

How do we find the balance?

This topic is probably not even something that you have considered as being part of what we do, but in reality, it actually is quite a time-consuming aspect.  I think I can sum up why in four words:

Social media is TRICKY!

Whilst establishing MStranslate, we paid very close attention to other social media accounts that were in a similar niche to ours.  From this, I think we identified two key points that we have incorporated in our activities from Day 1:

  1. Don’t ignore your community!  It was very apparent to us that most other sites were purely information providers, and often failed to respond to questions on published content as a result.  Our mantra has always been that a two-way conversation is critical, meaning we have endeavoured to engage with our community at every possible opportunity.
  2. Regardless of how careful you are, there is always the potential to occasionally receive negative feedback.  This became clearly evident to us when the Twitter account of an international MS organisation linked to a story about a person with multiple sclerosis who had recently successfully climbed a mountain.  They had framed this post as a positive piece about a person overcoming the challenges presented to them by their MS. Within minutes, they had receive a tweet back, which essentially said ‘My mother has MS and can barely climb out of bed every day, how dare you suggest that with a positive attitude she could be climbing mountains!’.  Obviously the organisation had not meant to offend anyone (and lots of people liked and retweeted their post), but as I said, it isn’t always easy to find that perfect balance.

From our perspective, we have managed to mostly avoid these issues over the 4+ years we have been in existence.  There has been the odd occasion where someone has questioned / challenged our approach and motives, sometimes more vehemently than others.  However, I think our overall strategy, as well as the way that we handle those instances, has ensured that it has happened very infrequently.

Anyway, back to the topic of the photo!  Hopefully by now you understand what I mean by the idea of creating balance.  On one hand, a lighter, funnier image makes people more attracted and engaged by a post.  However, on the other hand, this may make people think that we are not taking the symptoms or condition of MS seriously.  As someone who doesn’t have MS myself, I would hate to be seen to be giving that impression.

I like to think of myself as having a good sense of humour.  Even though I have no children, I am well-known for the abundance of “dad jokes” that I have at my disposal.  You may have even noticed that I’ve let that side of me come across a little bit more recently in some of our Facebook posts, such as my comments on using crystal balls for my research predictions and the fact that I will post the winning lottery numbers soon.

As people with MS, how do you feel about it?  Do you know me well enough after 4 years to understand that any humour associated with posts is not to lessen the seriousness of living with MS, but to try and put a positive spin on posts?  Do you prefer that everything is treated seriously to encourage others in the wider community to view MS as the major health and life issue that it is?

I’d love to hear your feedback, as in the end, MStranslate is all about you!  As I said, I know we can’t please everybody, but we’ll always try and please as many people as we can!

2 Responses

  1. Karen Vernon

    We need humour in life, it’s important , although it doesn’t always meaning taking a light spin or looking on the bright side of things, it is often a way of lightening the seriousness of things without detracting from the issue.


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