Friday, December 5, 2014

In which I throw social media under the bus and make you sad...

We're dealing with a lot of shit lately.  Not just me, or my loved ones, but everybody everywhere; 2014 has been a hard year. This post is not intended to make anybody on any of my social media outlets feel guilty, and it is not a plea for help.  This is just me making an observation about how many of our lives work in the age of modern technology.  It is also, unfortunately, a post in which I will also reveal myself to be a hypocrite about the thing I'm going to bitch about.

Modern day social media, especially Facebook, is a prophylaxis for genuine social interaction and rendering aid to others in their time of need.

In days of yore, you'd hear news of a friend or family member who had become ill, or whose house had burned down, or some member of their family had passed away and you would feel sad or an urge to help.  To show this person that you cared for them you would put pen to real paper and write a letter of condolence, or bake up a box of cookies to send, or if you lived close enough you would just call upon their house and spend real physical time with that person.  We as a society don't really do this anymore, myself included.  We see the tragedy that has befallen our fellows and we experience it through the lens of status updates and twitter feeds.  Sick parent?  "thinking of you".  Survived car accident?  "Like".  Lost limb in farming accident?  "High five dude, I'll buy you a beer next time I'm in town."

We say we care, we even write reassuring thoughts as comments, but few do anything to actually help.  This is not to say that there is anything that can be done in many situations.  Obviously, if someone loses a family member you cannot run to their house and magically will them back to life; nor can you undo the trauma of accident or disease.  But just being there for someone is helpful in its own way.  Being available for a person can make all the difference in the world.  Is your friend sick?  Maybe instead of well wishes you could send a card in the mail, or try hand writing a letter to them?  If you're close by, offer to bring them some soup.  More importantly, if you go on someone's status update or in chat or whatnot and you offer them help, you had better be able willing to actually help.  Nothing will break a friendship or damage a family dynamic like offering help and then when asked for it saying that you're too busy right now.  This goes the other way as well.  For those who are honestly offering their assistance to you in your time of need, if you think you might at all need the help you should take them up on the offer.  Letting someone help you not only lessens your burden, but can make them feel like they were able to actually do something in an otherwise unfixable situation.

As some of you know, we have been going through a rough patch this year.  Someone close to us has been fighting for their life all year and it has been very taxing for all of us in all aspects of our lives.  Our time, finances, health and emotions have all been strained or are already in tatters.  We have been making a lot of posts online, not just to inform, but also in a way to lean on our groups and friends lists for support as we navigate these bitter waters.  But no matter how much we post online, and no matter how much response we get to those posts, sometimes we still feel alone.  There have been many lonely dark times in the small hours of the morning.  Don't get me wrong, I am just as culpable for my own loneliness precisely because I haven't reached out to friends and family as much as I should be.  Having an unexpected lunch with my mother and sister this week I could see the worry in their eyes.  I could also see the relief that came from seeing that things, while bad, were not so dire as had been imagined.

So, reach out to your friends and family!  A direct text is so much better than a status update, an actual phone call is so much more real than a text.  In the last 10 or so months that this has been going on we have had almost no help.  Yes, there was a fund-raiser which was very successful, but I'm talking about one-to-one interaction.  Aside from close family and some few exceptions, nobody has just "dropped by" to check on us.  No care packages, no cards, no letters, and no time given.  Nobody has just shown up to be with us, even for an hour.  Nobody not already intimately involved with this scenario has just offered time, even if we sat in silence, to show that we are not alone.

All we get is "Thinking of you", "Hang in there!"