Cigarettes and Facebook

I’ve given up smoking tobacco.  This is a move with lots of benefits, however the experience of behaviour change is entirely overrated.  I’ve been grumpy, had problems with sleep and have at different times felt highly emotional.  In short I haven’t been my happy, wheezy, smelly self. Of course all of my social network friends on Facebook have already heard all about it.  What else do you do when you’re overdosing on a nicotine patch at three o’clock in the morning? 

This experience has lead to a series of  discoveries: 

  1. there are people out there who I rarely see (I haven’t spoken to some of them for nearly two decades),
  2. who normally couldn’t care what I am doing in my daily life,
  3. who all of a sudden are full of support when I let it slip that I am not smoking anymore.

I have to say that this public support has helped me stay motivated.  Additionally, compulsive social networking has been a handy distraction that may be somewhat healthier than eating a kilo of sugar everytime I’m experiencing a craving.

There has been a myriad of concerns expressed regarding the impact of social networks on our society and on individuals, but what if social networks like Facebook could be used to enhance treatment for one of the biggest causes of death in the world – tobacco?

There might be something to this.  I mean the tobacco companies definitely think so.  Why else would they be using social networks to promote tobacco (See Guardian article here)?

 The fact that tobacco companies have been willing to promote their products via social networks suggests to me that sites such as Facebook can be effective in promoting behaviour change. After all that is what advertising is; a form of behaviour change promotion.  What I wonder however is how Facebook can be used most effectively to promote smoking cessation. A quick search of tobacco related groups on Facebook yielded over 500 search results.  While some of the groups are dedicated to promoting tobacco products, many others were anti-tobacco groups focussed on changing the laws pertaining to tobacco and tobacco advertising.  While this is an important issue, I do wonder at the overall impact of online advocacy  on behaviour change. 

My experience has been that anti tobacco campaigns have had a limited effect on my smoking.  I am already well aware that tobacco can (and probably will) kill me. Unfortuantely death sometime in the unknowable future is not a great motivator.  It seems that a greater impact can be had through a personalised message of support from friends and strangers.

I guess in my sleep and nicotine deprived ramblings I’m trying to say that the way we use the internet to communicate is as important as what we are trying to communicate.  Personal messages that mean something to the receiver will always be more powerful than a slick campaign.  Either way I’m looking forward to spending more time on the blog while I distract myself from smoking.


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