I had to pop round a friends house today to pick up a package that I’d had delivered there way before Christmas, but kept forgetting to collect. On the way there I was thinking about the complete randomness that made me friends with her and more importantly, why we are still friends. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t close friends, but I know her and her sisters well enough to be invited to important life occasions, such as birthdays and weddings.
The thing is I only know her because I met her sister a few times at the local children’s centre when I was on maternity leave. We have no other link, and likely never would have. Ten years ago that would have been that. I’d have met this girl, probably promised to carry on meeting up once I’d gone back to work and then, as these things happen, we would both find ourselves back in the madness that is our lives, and that would have been that. Perhaps we’d see each other occasionally in the street and say hello. Perhaps it might have been too awkward to do even that.
So what was it that made me not only stay in touch with her, but also then become friends with her Mum, and sisters? It was something that we all take for granted today: the Internet, or to be specific; Facebook. We sat in the children’s centre one day and added each other as friends. We then saw each other’s lives carry on, we commented, commiserated and laughed at things together. I virtually met her family and made friends with them. A friendship which would, previously have been a fleeting thing was prolonged and enhanced. Fascinating really.
I then started to think about other circles of friendships that I have, which in all probability wouldn’t exist without the means of social media. My marriage being the first. I met my husband in a chat room, spoke for a month, met, then moved in together all in a few short days. That was 9.5 years ago. Obviously we now communicate outside of the medium of the Internet (occasionally), but without it we would never have met. I’ve not ever asked him, he might possibly say that was a good thing!
I have a group of friends who I have never met, but who I have had support me, and I have supported them through some of the most traumatic experiences of our lives. We know, on occasion, the details of each other’s bodily functions, we know who’s marriage is happy, who’s struggling with depression who have just been promoted at work, and we have celebrated and laughed together more than I have with some of the friends I see everyday. These people are people who I met on a message board over 5 years ago.
I have old school friends I’m in contact with purely because of the ease of socialising through electronic means. I mean seriously, I’d never have found the time or possibly inclination to keep in touch with these people otherwise. It is good to keep in touch with your youth. The internet is the web that holds us together.
One of the groups of friends that I am most proud to stay connected to are a random group of people who, like me are in recovery. I call them a group of friends, however, very few of them actually know each other or even realise that I connect them in my head to other random people in my friends lists. Some of them are relatively new to this journey, others have walked the path longer, some have faltered and yet all of them are hanging on. Despite the odds. I am honoured to be able to follow their progress and offer support where I can through the medium of the internet.
All that said, I am fairly cautious in my approach to Facebook statues or tweets. I often get friend requests that I ignore or block. I try my hardest not to argue with people online or write statuses designed to enrage or offend. It is often tempting to berate someone who you feel has wronged you in someway, by updating your status or tweeting about it. But the problem with social media is that once you have pressed the send button, there is no taking it back. Not only may you regret saying it an hour later, you may have irretrievably broken a relationship in the process. That thing you said in jest that you didn’t actually mean can hurt and rip apart lives.
The Internet means I can cultivate relationships that in the past would never have existed, I can settle arguments with a few words typed into Google. I’d never have finished my degree without it, however we should all pause and think; Social media has the power to enhance, change and destroy our lives. Every single person using it should consider that before they post.