The Gift of Social Media

A day or so before I was to depart for college, I became violently ill with what I thought was gastroenteritis, (what people commonly call stomach flu). But it cleared up almost immediately after I met my roommate and settled into my dorm room.

It was really stress, you see, from a girl who had almost never been out of her white-bread, suburban Detroit, lower-middle class community. We were poor, and even restaurant dinners and family vacations were totally foreign to me. The idea of being 90 miles away from my mother and family was sufficiently stressful to induce 2 days of vomiting.

After college I returned to the same suburban community where I grew up, beginning my first career as a police officer and maintaining some old friendships and forging  new ones among co-workers and neighbors. I stayed safely snuggled in those six square miles, leaving infrequently and never going very far when I did.

Then I met and married my husband, and he yanked me out of my safety zone to live in his world. That world was only another suburb about a 1/2 hour drive away, but to me it was like moving to another planet. I didn’t know the geography and, before cell phones and computers, immediately lost touch with many people.  I didn’t get physically sick this time, but I was irritable, argumentative, or crying for at least 3 months after moving. More stress.

So I wasn’t really sure what to expect a few weeks ago when I packed up my dogs and car and  began the biggest move of my life: 1,400 miles and almost 24 hours of driving, from Novi, Michigan to Naples, Florida – from the same 30 or so square miles I had lived my entire life to, as my friend Dave Ryan said, ” just north of Cuba.”

This time, though, I didn’t get physically sick. I haven’t screamed, cried, or other wise acted out. I’ve been tired, sure, but peaceful. Calm. Happy. This time, my friends and family have been with me the entire time:

  • Driving across the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati, when I thought of Eric Weingardner, Jennifer McClure, Benjamin McCall,  and several others who live there.
  • Hearing “Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone on Sirius/XM Sixties radio in Kentucky, which I will forever associate with Steve Browne‘s broad smile and ready hug.
  • Driving by the I-71/Louisville exit and recapturing the HRevolution #1 post-lunch walk with Lisa Rosendahl.
  • Thinking of Mike Krupa when the rakish young man in a Mini Cooper flashed me a bright smile as he passed in northern Tennessee.
  • Watching a family walk their GSD puppy in a Georgia rest area and wondering how Deirdre Honner was.
  • Driving through Atlanta and remembering everyone from HRevolution #3, especially Neil Morrison, James Papiano, Tammy Colson, and Frank Zupan.
  • Hearing Jason Danieley sing “You Walk With Me” from The Full Monty, who is forever associated in my mind with Trish McFarlane.
  • Having several Floridian Facebook friends reassure me that I will get used to, even welcome, having geckos skitter across the kitchen floor.
All of the people I named, plus hundreds of others that space prevented me from naming, are friends with whom I first connected on social media. Others are people with whom the social connection had been lost 20 or 30 years ago but with whom I have reconnected. All of them – every Facebook friend and Twitter follower – make me feel whole. The sense of community and involvement I get from their active participation keeps me from ever feeling lost or alone.

Last week I went to my first Florida HR meeting. I was inevitably asked by a tablemate what I did for a living. I explained a little about me and my social media venture.  One of the people at the table made the standard complaint about social media and “not wanting to read about what people eat for breakfast.”

I don’t mind hearing about your breakfast; I find it endearing. I want to see pictures of your kids and grandkids, too. Tell me about your good days and your bad – I’ll try to be there for both, because the gift of fellowship I get in return is worth it.

Social media changed my life, and it is the greatest gift I have ever received. Thank you.

Have a wonderful holiday season and the best New Year ever.