My husband pointed out that this is a very personal post. I hope so. It's about me and anyone who has made friends online. It's about love and hope.
I recently watched a video about how geese behave as they fly their migration. It was profound. Turns out that the lead position in the front of the "V" pattern, changes many times. A fully shared leadership is the way they get to their destination. If one of them becomes too tired or hurt, at least two fall back to help and stay with that one. Nature is not competitive at it's core. It is cooperative.
I know too many people going through difficulties. Most do so very quietly. They are dealing with chronic illnesses, acute illnesses, financial hardship, downright poverty, loneliness, isolation, loss of loved ones, abuse, keeping their children safe and the endless list of difficulties that life brings. Many have very few resources or even people near by to help out.
I have been told time and again that "You can't make real friends on social media. People only show what they want. You don't really know them. They turn out to be different than what they show. You have to meet them in person before you really know them". Yep, all of this can be true online. Want to know something? It's been just as true in the real world. In my life, I've had friends disappoint me, lie to me and walk out. Some have turned out to not be the person I met. Very few real life friends have stayed through thick and thin. Can we still be fooled by someone online? Sure, just like most of us have been at one time or another by people we've met. The fact is social media relationships reflect real life ones. For adults needing to make a strong circle of friends, the benefits outweigh the risks. For some of us social media is our only social life. There I said it.
Not all of us have communities of friends. It isn't easy to meet people in the "real" world if you are sick, disabled or just overwhelmed. I notice that I have very little in common with people in my neighborhood. I hear people online saying the same thing. Finding friends isn't easy. We are leading isolated lives with little support. Family is spread across the globe. So are old friends. In some cases we have lost contact with all of them. I think there is a romanticization of relationships before social media and the Internet. I don't engage in that. My grandmother had twelve siblings. I never met one in person because they lived in so many different parts of the country. Her primary form of communicating with them was through lengthy hand penned letters. Face to face would have cost a fortune.
Social media is not the problem. It may be a very good solution. I would go so far as to say that I have been fortunate to make many of my dearest and closest friendships online. I see and hear people give, open up, extend themselves, and offer love to folks they have never met. My wish is that we would develop these online relationships even further. We need to be geese. Somehow we have to find ways to share leadership and be willing to fly and hold up others when they need it. Handling things individually seems to be draining so many people.
We do need more interaction than just comments on posts. I love Skype. My greatest desire is to be well enough to spend the larger portion of my waking hours on Skype or Hangouts. It's imperfect. What is perfect? It gives both of us a chance to really talk to someone and to be heard. When I am able, I use it like crazy. I get more involved with people through Skype than if I walk outside my door. We share our days, triumphs, troubles and laughter. How is this different or inferior to those once long letters? I want to know my sisters and friends daily doings. If they are having good things happen I want to celebrate with them. If they are having troubles I want them to know someone is right there hearing and lifting them.
Take it even further. I want group calls where we tell our stories. I love reading. I love verbal stories more. Oral traditions are very powerful. They are ancient ways remembered in our very DNA. History/ Herstory must be more than battle to battle. Somehow, we must find a way to gather in groups and speak to each other. These stories we hold can break the world open. It is well known that I love women's circles. It has been my privilege to sit with women for as long as we wanted, pouring ourselves into each other through our tales. It is time to use online tools to make more circles. We all need each other. We need contact and emotional intimacy, that will both grant comfort and openness. It can happen on the Internet. I've experienced it. If we don't attempt this, we may never make our migration through life.
Let's stop criticizing social media, especially while using social media. I find it more than odd how many blogs and online posts are telling us to get offline. If I followed that advice, who would read their words, watch their video's, or make comments? I'm facing it, we love social media. It has given us connections across the globe. We are invited into each other's homes through photo's, updates, quirky quizzes, meme's, and yes political posts. It's a lot like family dinners from my childhood.
I really believe the geese have it right. They adapt constantly as they migrate. Social media is here to stay in some form or another. I choose to integrate it, expand it and make it more personal. Without my friends on social media, my life would be less. I am always delighted by the rich and varied tapestry of people who have chosen to be in my life even in small ways. If I only included people who mirrored everything I believe.... how small the world would be.
Vital additional thoughts.
Let me take a moment to list a FEW of the social media groups who prove everyday that we do make real friends online.
"Gather The Women" connected me both online and here in Dallas to wonderful women who are now sisters.
"Magoism" allows me more ways to explore both spiritually through the Goddess and helps me link and be touched by the many members I can now call dear friends.
"Kolo" is bringing me into a circle of powerful women that I both respect and love. They are earthy and real. We celebrate and share ancient and innovative ways to be in the world together. I have found honesty and boldness as we confront and work out serious systemic problems.
"Raw And Delicious" broadened my lessons on taking control of my health. It was the first group I joined on Facebook. I met people there that I count among my cherished friends.
"UniteWomen" gifted me some wonderful and precious friends that I am proud to stand with every day. We share laughter and tears equally.
"Care2 Members" are phenomenal. Talk about a way to meet so many wonderful people. They generously share of themselves. It is filled with people who have found how to remain vital and active no matter their circumstance. The fact that we seek each other on Facebook as well speaks to the love and beauty of our bonds. It is always easy for me to add anyone from Care2 to my Facebook friends. We have up to twenty or more friends in common.
"Global Goddess" brought a very dear friend back into my life and granted me the fun and joy of sharing our path and lives again.
"The Girl God." My beloved sister Trista, simply is the embodiment of all that I love about being a woman.
My husband's Navy friends. Each of you generously added me to your friends just because he asked. You are and were the people that made it safe for me to make new friends on Facebook even though we were once strangers.