A couple of years ago I started reading blogs. I’d been writing a blog for a while already, and there were a few blogs I read regularly, but I’d mostly been focused on keeping my own blog going.
There are people who warn you about how fake the internet and social media are and it’s all turning our brain to mush and we’re all turning into the people in WALL-E who only stare at screens and blah blah blah.
I certainly have my own issues with social media and its effects on society (and, not being a sociologist, I’m sure I don’t even understand all of the effects). I get how Facebook can make you feel utterly alone and make you feel like a failure sometimes. I do. I also think that it IS possible to have an addiction to the internet/social media . . . and sometimes I think I’m really close to it. I have to make the conscious choice to put technology away and engage in real-time conversations and activities.
BUT (you knew there was a but!) in the couple of years that I’ve been perusing blogs, I’ve made friends online. And many of them don’t feel like casual acquaintances. They seem like real friends. In fact, there have been times that I’ve felt like some of my online friends have understood me more than some of my real-life friends. I have found others who seem to be experiencing the things I experience: joy, doubt, questioning, hope, angst, sorrow, rebellion, faith, beauty, struggle, and compassion.
I met Briana, a fellow Thailand MK whose descriptions of faith and family are beautiful and haunting at the same time.
I met Sarah, who bravely engages in writing about a changing faith in the midst of raising four boys.
I met Alissa, who teaches me that it’s okay to doubt and to ask hard questions.
I met Esther, who challenges me to live a free life.
I met D.L., who helps me challenge the status quo in the best of ways.
I met Amy, another ESL professional and writer who helps me look at culture through a new lens.
I met Marilyn, who writes about Orthodoxy and cross-cultural life and understands what it is like to be a third culture kid.
I met Susan, a fellow Orthodox Christian and writer who has guided me as a spiritual and writing mentor of sorts.
I met Rachel, who is also an ESL teacher and who forces me to look past the face value of things.
I could go on. My point is: These online personas have become real to me. I have had email conversations with many of them. There are interactions on blogs and Twitter and in private Facebook groups. There are outpourings sometimes. There are raw, vulnerable words of truth and kind, loving words of comfort. There are admissions and confessions and affirmations and understandings. All of these things take place over the internet. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that these are real relationships that encourage me on almost a daily basis.
So yes, I can agree to some dangers of the internet and social media. But on the flip side, my online friends have helped me keep my sanity more times than I can count. Their words have given me a light when I felt like no one could see me in the dark. Their spirits have given me hope when I felt like no one understood.
The internet has given me a gift, and it’s the gift of friendship. And I am thankful.