Without reservation I am a lover of facebook. This is not a new topic for me. I roll my eyes at those who deride it, call it stupid and a waste of time. If you don’t like it why are you a part of it? Yes, you can get into sticky situations. But those same petty fights happen in real life as well. I love it because it makes me feel close to people who are all over the country, all over the world actually. And for the gift it has given me-renewing friendships that drifted apart because I moved 9 times before college. I’m “friends” with the sisters who lived next door to us in New Jersey in the 70s- I love seeing pictures of their kids. And the sisters who lived down the street the second time we lived in Fairfax county; they are hilarious and I’d love to buy them a beer at some point. One of the few people who was nice to me during the year I was bullied in Chicago. An Aussie, who was my closest friend when we both lived in Wellington, NZ in the late 80s. My now real life friend who was only an acquaintance back in high school and who is becoming a big deal blogger. We saw her over the holidays last year (Z loves her, of course) and will see her again this year. A laundry list of Drama kids from Robinson Secondary. Go Rams.
Since I joined the site in January of 2008 I’ve gotten to see a bunch of these people in real life-one of them just this week. The grad student that I full on worshiped in college has become one of my closest friends. And I’ll tell you what, friendship with a real, live, interesting person is a hell of a lot more fulfilling than worshiping from afar. She and her mother joined us for Thanksgiving last year, there have been a number of trips back and forth to each other’s home-we have introduced her to some of our friends and family and she keeps up with them on facebook. Because full circle, baby. Her long distance sweetheart spent a night at our home this summer. Without facebook that awesome California surfer dude would never have crossed paths with me, and you know what? My life is better because he is in it.
There are sort of “aspirational” friends as well-I get to be “friends” with the cookbook author and blogger who is a real life friend of a friend. And the hilarious girl whose blog I followed for years after meeting her at a party. She is fearless and confident and says exactly what is on her mind. She sort of fascinates me and scares the shit out of me at the same time. She’s also an accidental polygamist. How punk rock is that? There are the friends on FB first who I eventually meet-Kev’s lovely girlfriend who spent the 4th of July at our home after a brief meeting in VA earlier in the summer. We felt we knew before we met her because of the computer box.
My sister’s best friend from middle school and I got back in touch a couple of years ago. The world is such a small place it turns out she is also friends with a woman who was in our amazing circle of friends back in Brooklyn. They both live in Iowa city now. She and I have been friendly online-we had a kid around the same time and it seems like we are going through similar struggles.
On Thursday night her younger brother was murdered in what appears to be a robbery gone wrong. She posted the news yesterday. My family was immediately on the phone with each other-speechless, yet wanting to reach out and be together. This isn’t the first tragedy I’ve learned about on FB, and each time it makes me stop and think about the function social networking plays in our lives.
I’m grateful to be back in touch with this woman. As hard as this news was to hear I’m grateful I received it. I cannot comprehend the pain her family is experiencing. I can’t bear to even consider contemplating a world without my sons-outliving a child is the cruelest thing I can imagine, or my sister, my partner in crime, the reason I had kids two years apart-because my hope for my boys is a true friendship with each other as deep as the one I’ve been lucky enough to experience with her.
We feel helpless, we want to do something, anything to ease the pain our friend and her family are feeling. And this hurt is so huge, so completely life changing, that we feel there is nothing we can do that will take even a piece of it away. But. Those of us that know her have been sending our love to her and her family. I may not belong to an organized religion, but I think that love can be felt across great distances. I think that love matters. I didn’t really know her brother, he was much younger than me, but I can listen to my sister reminisce about him. I can still send love to him. This online community is real. We are there to support each other. Our friend has encouraged people who knew him to post memories on his FB wall. She has reached out to her friends in her own grief and received beautiful, heartfelt advice on how to navigate the pain. We feel helpless, but FB is giving something tangible to her family, it is confirming that her brother made a difference in this world and that he will be remembered by many.
L, we love you. We ache for you. We wish there was something, anything we could do to help. It hurts that we can’t. But we are here. And we aren’t going anywhere.