By Dana Gornall
“I hope we all figure it out.”
This was a message I typed to one of my friends—one of my social media friends.
Another friend I met through social media actually created this website with me. When we first began, in the early months extending into the first year or so we were texting daily—especially when we were just launching The Tattooed Buddha. After awhile he grew away from it, and talked about leaving. I didn’t want to run it alone and especially without him since we created the site together. We had a mutual passion for it (or at least we both did in the beginning) and it felt wrong to continue on without him.
For awhile he stayed on, but it was clear he had lost some interest and was moving in a different direction. Eventually he did move on, and other people joined the team. We stayed in contact, no longer texting daily, but every so often.
The last conversation we had was good. There was no bitterness or weirdness. It seemed to come full circle, and I hoped maybe one day the pendulum might swing back and we’d share a more common mindset. But it didn’t really matter, because things seemed good between us.
And then he died.
Losing someone you’ve met on social media is an odd kind of grief and yet becoming more and more common.
We have opened up the borders we once had, no longer just sharing friendship to those we meet through work or through the neighborhood, but now we are friends with people across our country or across the globe. While social media has at times clearly divided many of us, it has also formed bonds between people we otherwise never would have met.
A few years ago one of those friendships ended for me when one of my writing mentors, Kate, died. She was fighting breast cancer, but appeared to be doing better. I didn’t know her health had taken a turn. Caught up in dramas from my own life I missed the cues—missed the fact that she hadn’t posted much in awhile and we hadn’t chatted in a bit.
Another social media friend messaged me one morning telling me she had died. “What?” I typed back in disbelief. That couldn’t be possible. Hadn’t we chatted not that long ago?
Unlike a family member or long time friend we might see here and there, these social media friends are often people we may never have met in person. Or if we have, maybe once or twice, and yet we share some of the deepest conversations with them. Suddenly all we have left are messenger conversations or DM’s, maybe text messages. They sit there, shadowy ghosts of a friendship, and fall further and further down in our recents.
I still can’t bear to delete them.
I used to have this idea that one day we all eventually “get it.”
That life settles somewhere into understanding. That we grow old, we see our grandchildren, we retire from our occupations and start volunteering at food banks and animal shelters. That one day we start hosting the Thanksgiving dinners and remember to pay our bills on time, and suddenly know how to get that stain out of our white shirts.
But I look at the people I have lost recently, the people I see fading, and I realize we don’t necessarily come to a place where we suddenly “get it.” As a matter of fact, that’s probably rare. There is no point on the staircase that we find the answers, no sky opening that brings down raindrops of enlightenment.
We have to work at it. We have to work on ourselves, work on our kindness, work on our becoming. We may not have the chance to grow old. We may grow old but life may not hold the snapshots of what we want to come to be, but instead take a different turn.
All we have is now. Life is unpredictable at best.
“I hope we all figure it out,” I typed to one of my social media friends. “I don’t think I’ll ever figure it out, I just hope I never quit,” he typed back.
And I guess that’s the secret to figuring it out. We just keep at it and we don’t quit. I don’t know if I will ever “get it.” But I hope that in my travels along this path to trying I come a little closer to being there. I hope that I make a difference, no matter how small. And I hope to be a light along the way.
“A champion shows who he is by what he does.” ~ Evander Holyfield
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