Just a couple of years ago, I met a lady at a party. I don’t really remember how we fell into conversation, but we did, and very easily. She was quirky and interesting, a software engineer by trade and a vegan baker by hobby. She was also into cool things like art, books, making jewelry. It was really kismet.
In 2005 or pretty much any date in time before, that would have been that, probably. I would maybe have thought about the sweet, cool chick that I met at that cocktail party all those years ago if I saw a recipe for a vegan cake, or saw someone who had her cool funky red hair color. That’s all. But, I’m writing this post because I consider her an inspiration and a friend – and that’s thanks to social media.
The night of the cocktail party, or maybe it was early the next day, either she or I requested the other as a friend on Facebook. Now she was able to see pictures of my kids, or see when I post silly little anecdotes about my day. I get to read the fascinating articles that she posts. What if there was no Facebook? Would I have asked for her phone number and called her the next day? Not likely. She lives in the next state, and she’s a busy gal! Adults don’t have time to form friendships by gabbing on the phone for hours (more’s the pity – I miss that).
Not long after we became friends, she posted a status that kicked me in the gut. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Having lost a best friend to ovarian cancer a few years before, hearing of a cancer diagnosis in such a young person always scrapes old emotional wounds for me. She wanted to not tire people who didn’t really have the time or inclination to be involved in every step of her cancer journey, so she created a special group (a symposium) with which to share the details. In the group, I offered what meager advice and support I could, based on my experience and love. I won’t lie, sometimes it was hard to see a person who you were so drawn to feeling so much physical pain and emotional isolation. But I was, for her, an additional voice, supporter, friend.
One day, feeling particularly annoyed with the minutia of life, I opened my little Facebook app. She had posted in the symposium that her most recent mammograms “showed no signs of breast cancer.” Tears sprang to my eyes, and I shook away the shame that I felt for being upset at nonsense a few minutes ago. I can’t express the joy and honor I felt in that moment, to be a person with access to this precious communication.
And you know what? I bet YOU have a story like this, too. I am sure that each and every person reading this has made a connection through social media that would have been nearly impossible a mere 15 years ago. Whether it’s a high school chum who you like keeping up with, but y’all live on different sides of the country or someone you met in a Facebook interest group and just “hit it off” with (both of these scenarios apply to me, as well), social media makes your lives and love shareable.
Remember “Before Sunrise,” the classic early 90’s romance starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy? (Wow, I’m dating myself, aren’t I?) They made a pact in the morning to return in 6 months – and didn’t exchange phone numbers. Nowadays, a quick search probably could have made re-connection a snap. (Not-so spoiler alert – there are 2 more movies so I think they got it worked out.)
Now, I’m not pretending that I don’t send screenshots of annoying social media behavior to my best friend as we roll our eyes, like everyone does (Wait, we ALL do that, right?) and get irritated with people who share stories without reading them (Dude. Y’all stop that, ok?). But all social media platforms get a pretty bad rap, considering the joy and love they are able to spread, when used correctly.
The sweet, interesting and brilliant friend sent me a jewelry piece the other day- a beautiful and moving bronze heart pendant. Maybe I’m a sentimental sucker who looks for metaphors everywhere- but when I thank people for the compliments they bestow when I wear it, I remind them – the blessing of friendship can come from anywhere – even electronically.