I am so grateful for social media and the community it brings to my doorstep. As an expat who sometimes wonders where home really is (and who among us isn’t an expat from somewhere), Facebook and other Internet wonders bring me friendships and connections that support my work and feed my soul. People I may not have ever met face to face become important to my heart as we share and relate to little snippets from our daily lives, and long-ago friends come back into my life as we share old memories and consider new directions.
We hear it all the time. The world is going to the dogs as we disappear behind our computer screens. Communities are dying and people are isolating themselves in their homes. But are they really?
Because of the wonders of technology, I have an international community that helps me celebrate the highs and mark the lows of life, I get help with whatever conundrums I may be wrestling with, and find companionship on my coffee breaks. Part of my life is spent travelling and being part of the very exciting wave of labyrinthine enthusiasm, but a big part of my year is spent quietly at home, in what we call Hermit Cave 53, where life can become hibernatingly quiet if we don’t push ourselves out the door.
Facebook friends are real friends, especially when we extend our connection to Skype calls and instant messaging. Every Saturday morning I have coffee with a friend in Florida. We’ve never met, but we weave faithfully and loyally into each other’s lives through Skype. Yesterday afternoon three farflung friends joined each other on a spiritual retreat, sharing heart and space via Skype — I’m in England and they are in two different time zones in the US; our lives are worlds apart, and yet technology allows us to walk a sacred path together for couple of hours at the end of our busy weeks. Tomorrow I will connect with a woman in Australia as we plan the walking pilgrimage we will make in France later this year. Last night, one of my kids called to tell me goodnight from the other side of the world, and Sunday morning I’ll watch my grandsons tuck into their pancakes in California.
If that isn’t magic, what is?
My online friends weave into my days, my travels, my activities. Travelling in northern Scotland last month, I saw a sign and thought of my friend in New Mexico whose black cats feature in many of her posts, so I paused to snap this photo for her. It mattered to me because it would matter to her; I really looked at something I probably wouldn’t have noticed if it hadn’t have been for this woman in a far away place, whom I’ve never even met — we are only FB friends because of our common interest in the labyrinth symbol.
Last year when I got stuck on a knitting pattern, a Ravelry-connected stranger in Michigan walked me through a new technique. Last week, I spent an evening crocheting a mandala for an art project coordinated by an artist in Yorkshire. A favourite cookbook author and blogger shared a personal story, and I prayed for her and her family. Blogs and photos from around the world encourage me in my cooking and knitting, illustrated quotes bring motivation and inspiration, and quirky cartoons make me smile despite myself. Daily!
The world wide web becomes a personal web of our own making, connecting us to each other in ways that count, both large and small. Even when I start to feel overwhelmed by the speed at which the world seems to move these days, I enjoy the community that is mine at the touch of a button, the stroke of a key. My world is a better place for my connecting to my social media friends, and I am a happier person because of their presence in my life.
Balance is always a consideration, of course. My online community is an addition to, not a substitute for, my local community. I still participate in village activities, I am out three nights a week knitting or beading or doing service in my chosen modalities. I chat, I socialize, I meet up for coffees and lunches — but my world is not limited by geographic considerations. I have close friends dotted around the globe. Together we talk, listen, share, inspire and discuss. We don’t always speak the same language and we don’t always agree with each other, but our hearts connect and we find ourselves caring, deeply. We matter.