Gratitude for Facebook friends…

I have a friend here in Oklahoma, who I  frequently hear lambasting Facebook “friendships.” He likes to joke about how, when you finally meet in person, or run into them in Walmart, “the person shows up looking nothing like their profile, and acting nothing like their online persona.”

Clearly, I do not walk around with my hand on my cheek like this in real life...

Clearly, I do not walk around with my hand on my cheek like this in real life…

That is very much the case, I’m sure, with a fair enough amount of people. Online platforms are easy places for exaggerating or diminishing certain aspects of ourselves. It is all too easy to only show our best photos, the best versions of ourselves.  However,  the fact is, people are people, and this isn’t actually limited to the online world. I know plenty of people whom I’ve only experienced in person, who have worn multiple masks, and not given me their genuine self, ever. And when it comes to not looking like our “posted selves” I can’t help but chuckle. The average woman is walking around caked in makeup, a far cry from what she really looks like in the morning. You don’t have to get on social media to see people altering, or misrepresenting themselves.

When it comes to Facebook, or social media period, I’ve just experienced it quite differently than he has, and this  is what was on my mind as I traveled from Oklahoma to Florida a few weeks ago, to spend two weeks meeting, gathering with, and staying in the homes of women I’d only known online at that point. I never stopped to think about how they might look different, act different, be different in person. I assumed they would, ever so slightly, but only in so much as people look a little more real and act a little more casual after the first couple of coffee dates in person. You start off wearing makeup, and eventually you say “Come over to my place so I don’t have to get out of my pajamas.”

My first stop on this long trip was to meet with and stay with a woman I already called “Friend” though no, we’d never met in-person. We’d met online in a class we took almost two years ago now. Over these two years we have shared personal stories, bonded over our love of writing, as well as our love/pull-your-hair-out relationships with parenting as introverts. In fact, I don’t think she and I have ever had a “fluff” conversation. We may not talk every week, hell we may not talk every month, but when we do, it counts.

safetyharbor

Britt picked me up at the Tampa Bay Airport and I got to spend the next three days with her family.  I helped her cart kiddos to bus stops and school, had taco dinner night with the family and went on manatee hunts with the wee one and the sunrise every morning at the pier.  It was a gift to get to know her family and to stumble upon how many more things we have in common (crazy, really). There was something so effortless, as if we’d already met. And you know what? I think that’s because we had. I think some people show up online as themselves. Truly. I think some people show up with the conscious intention to be transparent and authentic. Also, especially because of the proliferation of closed “groups,” we are able to find a comfortable, safe environment to open up in about truly personal things.

safety harbor pier

And I think a lot of those people are like me: A little bit introverted. Somewhat shy about making friends. Or just plain tired, and too busy/exhausted to go out meeting people in-person. Online interactions are just plain easier for me.  I appreciate that at night, I can sit half naked eating chocolate by the bar, and have a real, genuine interaction with someone. For me, it does not matter that they aren’t here in person.  I also appreciate that, given my social anxieties and my genuine distaste for small-talk, that I do not have to endure either when I’m interacting online. It gives me the freedom to “step out” immediately, or not interact at all.

After a couple of days in Britt’s home, we set out for St. Pete’s beach, Florida, where we met up with a group of women who had also taken this same class. It was a reunion of sorts, though we’d never met one another. Our host, e’Layne welcomed us into her home, had lovingly prepared food and drinks with her partner Lora, and I stood back as guests arrived, in awe of the genuine hugs and excitement, and connection, among these women. That evening, in e’Layne’s gorgeous home, I hosted a Spark the Circle gathering. Eleven of us spent the evening gathered in a circle in the warm beach air, talking about the importance of female friendships, and the things that block us from being our best selves.

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There is something wonderful to me, as I live in Oklahoma, and they live in Florida, about being able to befriend people from afar and trust that you would feel comfortable, hell, even have a blast, coming to meet them for the first time. Most of my life, I have ached for female community, companionship and connections. I’ve lived in many places, and multiple countries, and all the while, I’ve longed for a kindred spirit in a female friend. Even when I lived in Austin, a liberal, ripe city full of artistic souls, I never found friends that fulfilled me. And what I realized on this trip was, I have cultivated those friendships entirely from the internet!

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The irony is, I have also, for the very first time since my freshman year of college, found a community and small group of friends in person. It’s an understatement to say that it’s been a lonely ten years without that. I am blessed beyond measure to be meeting these great people where I live. I just don’t feel any real difference between my friends here “in person,” and the friendships I have made with women online. They all fulfill me, they are all real, and they are all beautiful people who help me to grow. And frankly, I love a life where I can show up at someone’s house who I have only known online , wander around in my pjs all day in their home, write in my journal alone by their pool, laugh hysterically over dinner with them at night, witness love in them unabashedly, all with complete ease.  To be real, I don’t actually have a friend yet in person in this town who I’ve done any of those things with. That very person who puts down the apparent inconsistencies of online friends, has in fact suggested, and then bailed on, an outing for us enough times that I have given up asking. So for my part, there isn’t a more “real” way, there isn’t a better way. In person, or online, for me, there’s only one way: the authentic way.

Comments

  1. Hey sweetie…love this post…and so agree about Facebook friends…I’ve met so many amazingly wonderful and authentic people online and people I feel certain will be lifetime friends. It’s really a blessing when I get to meet them in person…glad you are one of those people!! Sending big love, e’Layne

  2. Diva Kreszl says:

    You post is beautifully written, touching on so many truths! Meeting you in Florida and sharing with you and all the amazing women there was a precious gift. We shared so many life stories, many that I have not shared with women I know here at home. There was such a common thread between us that doesn’t happen all the time, thank you for articulating so well the magic that took place in Florida!

  3. I so hear you Jessica…I have made some amazing connections via the internet…through blogging and on line classes…I have not encountered the drama I sometime shear about…but I am also selective, in the sense that even here I want to be intentional about how I am spending my time and who I am connecting with. I see this just as when I was a kid and had pen pals all over the world…I loved to write and receive letters, so pen pals were a great way to fulfill those needs…and now blogging or facebook allows for the same thing
    love that you found your trip so rewarding…these kinds of stories warm my heart

    love and light

    coming over from SouLodge…aho

  4. Lovely. Well said.

  5. Jo Freeman says:

    This post makes me happy. I wish I could show it to everyone who knocks my ‘pretend friends’. Yes that’s right I get told my online friends are pretend. If only people where as open and aware as you. Thanks for sharing your on line friend journey. Jo

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