Providing a safe and supportive community for patients is our top priority at Ben’s Friends. We want members to freely ask questions, share opinions, and express emotions without having to worry about inappropriate reactions from others. 

And this has always been possible because of members who voluntarily devote time to ensure that this goal is always met. 

We have two types of moderators at Ben’s Friends. We have community moderators who are oftentimes in charge of a single community, usually the one they belong to. We also have a Moderator support team who provides support to our community moderators when necessary. 

Moderators go to ModSupport for advice such as on technical matters and handling certain situations in communities. ModSupport members also take over some tasks when a moderator needs to be absent for a period of time. 

Without our very dependable ModSupport and moderators, our communities will not be as effective as they are in helping rare disease patients. In this blog, we would like to introduce one of our ModSupport members and share what being part of Ben’s Friends team means for her. 

Sharon, aka Stoney on the sites that she’s a member of, is a certified teacher. She left full time teaching after her first child was born, and didn’t return due to chronic conditions. She worked part time and has since built a tutoring business, primarily math and science.

Sharon is very active in her Temple, and has now survived both of her children becoming B’Nai Mitzvahs. Aside from Ben’s Friends, she also volunteers with an animal rescue group. She has four cats of her own, and continues to foster cats. Along with that she helps manage volunteers for their cat room, and helps out other fosters and new adopters.

Below is our interview with Sharon.

Tell us your Ben’s Friends story. 

I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis 13 years ago, but didn’t find Ben’s Friends right away.  It was when I started taking methotrexate and all of the worries about that, that I found Ben’s Friends. 

I was doing a search for methotrexate and psoriatic arthritis. Much of the information that I was finding was related to rheumatoid arthritis, so I was really happy to find a support group specific to psoriatic arthritis.

I really liked the format, and that it was clearly well-moderated. That made a real difference to me, as I knew that it meant that it wouldn’t be a support group where members could get into arguments. That’s always held true, in all of the sites that I’m now on.  

I became a moderator a few years ago, after being asked to do so. I felt really honored! 

About a year ago, I attended a conference with Tom and Seenie. It was really wonderful to meet them in person, and ultimately they asked if I was willing to become ModSupport.  

It’s definitely been a learning curve, but I really enjoy checking in on the sites every day, and the cooperation amongst ModSupport.

Tell us about your tasks as ModSupport.

As ModSupport, my role is to check in to all of the sites every day. I share this task with Merl from ModSupport. We review new member requests, and will reach out to them to find out more information. 

We want to make certain that people who are joining are people who not only belong in the specific group due to their connection to the condition, but that they will contribute in a positive manner.  

As part of that, I check in to each site, and review the recent discussions. Sometimes I’ll ask a question or direct a member to specific information on the site. I also will review any posts that have been flagged, and will determine how to handle the flagged post.  

Please describe a typical day for a ModSupport.

A typical day is pretty straightforward. Merl and I have a daily spreadsheet that we alternate which sites we’re checking in to each day. I review new member requests, and read through the most recent discussion. 

I will also respond to any moderator questions that might have arisen. I’ll review flagged posts, and manage them as I see fit. I also respond directly to members who may need assistance, such as updating profiles.

Tell us some things you have learned as ModSupport.

Great question. I have learned how to be very diplomatic when managing any situations that may arise. I have to say, Seenie is a wonderful example of how to manage issues.  

How has being part of the ModSupport team changed you?

My confidence has definitely grown. I know that I have support from the rest of the team when managing any challenging situations, but over the course of this last year, I feel like my skills have really improved. 

I already had experience working in an online world, having taught online classes for almost 15 years, but this has definitely added to my skill set.

Anything you want to say to members who are considering volunteering as moderator/ModSupport?

It’s a really wonderful opportunity. The time commitment, especially on a more active site, is not as much as you might be concerned about. And I’ve really found that the camaraderie with the other moderators is wonderful.