Friendship is a powerful thing, remedy and in the age of social media it occasionally looks like everyone has disconnected from the real world. I can tell you from experience, though, that the virtual world has made me feel connected to the human experience in a way that I never thought possible.
When I was a kid moving every few years, I always thought to myself that I wished so and so from one state would meet so and so from my new state.
With social media – that is now possible. As an adult, I am still a connector. I want so and so to meet this or that person. I think they would make fabulous friends or be supportive of each other due to a common issue.
In my life I have an incredible group of virtual friends – some I have met in person – some I have not.
With my job, I travel the country taking photos and fishing, and on these trips I get to meet long time Facebook friends and reconnect with those I only see now online. These virtual friends have seen me through, among other things, a viral photo, the crazy growth of my business, my husband’s death, new relationships, moves, business transitions, and the passing of my dogs.
We have so much in common – and I am always amazed that we really truly are similar and compatible when we meet in person. I have a love-hate relationship with social media in some ways – but the bonds of friendship and the power of shared experiences when it comes to healing from tragedy and trauma cannot be underestimated.
It is sometimes the ultimate “not alone” tool. (This is, of course, not always the case. We all look at our screens and say “I must be the only one feeling mediocre” – but that it is another post).
These are 3 reasons virtual friendships rock:
1. Shared interests, loves, hopes, or troubles.
We can connect to those in the virtual world in a way we might not be able to our physical spaces. First of all it is sometimes easier to write how you feel than it is to say how we feel. And secondly, in some cases there are few who are experiencing what you are going through.
To put it bluntly – there aren’t a ton of people who saw their spouse die or had to ID their husband in the ER. There are a bunch of us online (including two who I know in the local community)- and we like to refer to ourselves as the “Guild of Sarcastic Widows”. When one of us is having a down day, we can discuss it quite candidly with the others. We can also now discuss how it feels to move forward with our lives in a way not others will understand.
2. You don’t need money to hang out.
Economic factors can sometimes limit our ability to go out, or when we do, we feel pressured to spend a certain amount. With virtual friendships, that is not the case. Those barriers are lifted, and you can connect with people on a level that you might not be otherwise able to.
3. Friendship and support exist regardless of time, space, and place.
If you are going through a physical move or other extreme change – these people are still there. Support is right there regardless of place. Sometimes when things are bad, we have zero interest in leaving our houses. Support is still available regardless of your state of dress, or if you have brushed your teeth that day.
Whether it’s a job move, a location change, or a relationship change – these people are still there. Sometimes that constant is what you need to keep sane. When my husband passed – I was taken care of by many amazing people – but in the dark of night when I was ultimately alone, I was able to reach out to those I knew had gone through the same thing. It saved me.
5 years later being able to connect with others who are just now going through what I did is huge for me. I can let them know that they are NOT alone, and that many of us are here if they need us. Because of social media, longtime friendships have grown deeper, and new ones have been formed due to shared experiences of tragedies and triumphs. I am richer because of virtual friendships.
Please remember, no matter what, you are not alone. Reach out. Help will show up – sometimes in the most unexpected places.