It's no secret to anyone who's read this blog for any length of time that I've gone through some pretty dark periods over the last five or so years. There were times of social isolation, fake smiles, and cracks in the facade of my life. The cracks widened right around the same time as I discovered blogging was a "thing".
For years, I'd blogged on LiveJournal and here In Mandyland without realizing there was this whole social network of bloggers interacting on Twitter, Facebook, and through comments. When that door opened, I discovered a whole new tribe.
As I've mentioned before, I'm an extrovert. One of the key components to me living a healthy and happy life is to have social interations and when I was in a place where I couldn't get those interaction in real life, I found them online. We shared our hearts, our stories, our lives. I looked at each one of them as a true friend. To be honest, I still do.
Of course, what I didn't realize is that a lot of people don't see it in quite the same way. For some, social media is fast food friendships, full of empty calories that make you feel a little ill the next day. For others, it's an all you can eat dessert buffet, light and fluffy with enough sugar to give you a headache.
I was a little surprised to see them come and go, sending me hugs and love that were nothing but four letters on a page. I got a little jaded.
I got a little smarter.
Because let's be honest, if what has happened in my life to this point has not made me jaded, the internet certainly won't.
I started to step back a bit and look at my friends with new eyes and recognize them for who they are. I didn't dismiss any of them. Far from it! Sometimes you need fast food and dessert! But I stopped giving energy to those who gave me only the barest air kiss and moved on.
What I was left with was a core group of men and women in whom I could truly confide. They serve as my touchstones to this day. Sometimes I don't get to chat with them as often as I like or want. But isn't that the way of real life friends too?
Sometimes they fade away like ghosts. I've lost a few that way. People who chatted with me over virtual brownies. People with whom I celebrated and cried. And then, somehow...they were gone. Their social media deleted. Their blogs growing cobwebs and a layer of dust. I think of them still, even though some have been gone for years. I do searches, hoping they're okay and their life is happy. I remember last conversations with worry from secrets whispered over the taps of keyboards; secrets that make me hope, above all, they are safe.
Online friendships are complicated. Though, the same can be said for real life friends, some of whom have ghosted away as surely as the virtual ones and leave me wondering why. Of course, real life friends are much easier to stalk than savvy online friends.
Did I say stalk?
I meant keep tabs on.
That didn't sound much better.
Still...when I sit at home in the evenings and check my newsfeeds, I smile as I see their names pop up. I grin as I see them planning road trips, house remodeling, summer vacations, trips to foriegn countries, photo sessions with their families, children moving to college, and all the various little pieces of their lives. Social media, I've read, has the power to disconnect us from each other.
In my case, I think the opposite is true. Those little green buttons next to smiling faces has the power to make me feel connected to a greater whole.
So don't go disappearing on me.