How Using Social Media Helped Me To Feel Connected, Not Isolated
It started with trying to connect with my girlfriends...
In 2007, I decided that my closest girlfriends and I needed and deserved a girlfriends getaway weekend. I have three best girlfriends and they are the loves of my life. My life has been changed for the better because of them. Two of them live in Atlanta, one lives here in DC. I rarely see any of them. (laughs) My girl who lives here has a high-profile job that keeps her ultra busy and constantly on the move. We have a relationship that may appear to others as a little strange. We don't talk everyday, we don't see each other too often (maybe once a year and that's a big MAYBE) but the love never changes. As soon as the phone rings (or the email shows up), we connect as though we spoke 10 minutes before. I have a deep and abiding love and trust for these women.
So, when I decided in 2007 that we HAD to make time, just 3 days, for each other naturally I had no idea what 2008 would have in store for me. We were still discussing where to go and when to go when I found out that I had cancer. And those plans fell by the wayside as my focus (our focus) shifted to more pressing matters like chemotherapy, and mastectomy surgery and so on.
Their love is like no other
I have called each of these sisters at different points of this journey to cry, to laugh, to connect... to feel whole again. And each of them without fail, stepped right up and embraced me over the phone or through an email and made sure that I knew just how deeply I was loved. They are the kind of friends that "I" need. They never doubt that I love them. Even during the darkest days, when I couldn't or wouldn't return phone calls -- because my heart was breaking, or I just didn't feel up to -- they kept calling. They kept reaching inside my tiny circle to hold my hand (virtually). They made me laugh and smile -- without even knowing that I may have been crying for hours -- which happened a lot then.
I'm telling you about my loves because like I said... I don't see them often and don't talk to them all the time. So, in the meantime, I've found facebook and twitter. And it has been AMAZING. Nothing could replace these women in my life but today it dawned on me that just connecting with people over facebook and twitter has helped my spirit immensely.
But social media never turns off... and it is amazing who you can see on Twitter
I know that a lot of people in the world are not familiar with twitter and facebook, although just about EVERYBODY in my world is. Celebrities are flocking to twitter because it offers them a direct line to connect with their fans, removing the filter of the paparazzi, the media, and staff. They get to be real people with real people. It has been fantastic. For the past two days, I've been chit-chatting (and eavesdropping on conversations) with people I may never meet in my life. Fantasia, DJ Dnice, Ray J, Toccarra, Plug One (from De La Soul), Shaq, The Fat Boys, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Idris Elba, Solange, Ice Tea, Spindarella, Gabrielle Union, Estelle, Tyrese, Kelly Rowland... you get the drift. There are more but I can't remember them all. What's funny is that I'm not really that big on celebrity watching, etc. I rarely read celebrity blogs or magazines and I seldom watch celebrity-focused television shows. But chatting (or eavesdropping) on celebrities on twitter has changed my perspective on things.
Why? Because I realized that they are just human beings like me. They have good days and bad, they have likes and dislikes... it just happens that their lives are exposed to many more people because of their professions. I knew that but it hit home for me today when I was twittering with all the folks I follow and who follow me and I realized I was reading and responding to people based upon what they shared about themselves and not who they were. Most of the people I follow and who follow me are strangers. But they are some of the most loving and helpful people I've met online in many years.
Have a problem? Send out a tweet. That tweet gets re-tweeted seconds later. And within a few moments hundreds or maybe thousands of people have been made aware of your question and someone usually responds immediately. It has been incredible to see bread cast upon the twitter waters and bring back whole loaves within moments. Twitter allows you to follow what is happening with other folks so you can see a question/comment go out and the responses flow back in real time. I love it.
Facebook is similar yet different and just as amazing for me. With facebook, I'm connected to people I know or have met along the way. And people I don't want to talk to, I don't have to. Facebook shares more of who you are -- pictures, links, connections to other friends and family members -- so there is more incentive to be protective of your privacy. I've enjoyed facebook immensely because it has allowed me to have brief spurts of spontaneous conversation with people I know or to NOT have those conversations if I don't feel like it.
I'm not much of a phone talker. When I do talk on the phone, I may be on there for hours but I can honestly go for weeks without talking on the phone to anyone. And not feel badly about it. (laughs) I prefer email. Strange but true.
I am not even a full year into this journey with breast cancer...
My birthday is in a couple of days and I am celebrating a milestone. My girlfriends have been on my mind because since we didn't have our girlfriend weekend last year, we are meeting in Miami to celebrate my birthday and how far I've come on this cancer journey. I leave next Thursday and will return on Sunday. I cannot wait. Thinking about the upcoming trip, my birthday celebration and just life in general... made me realize that connecting with other people is very important to my spirit and my healing.
There are a lot of people and businesses on both Twitter and Facebook for business/marketing related reasons. And to me, that's fine. It goes with the territory of being in a capitalist society. (which I don't mind at all) But the amazing sense of comraderie and openness to simple communicating is fascinating and heartwarming to me.
When I return to work on Friday I won't be able to play with my friends during the day. I hope that the fact that I will be back among the "living" will offset any loss I feel from that disconnect with my virtual playmates.
All of this to say...
Today I realized that it is important (to my health, my sanity and my emotional balance) for me to connect with others and to share/receive from other people. I may be a loner at times but I require the "touch" of others to make everything seem balanced. Right now, I am focused on HEALING in all ways. Protecting my body and my spirit from toxic things and people. Twitter and facebook -- despite what you may hear or think -- have been helpful tools on this journey of healing discovery.
Thank you for sharing yourselves with me. You are helping me to become whole and healthy again.