Social Media Posts and Sadface Emojis Do Not Absolve You from Being There for a Friend
In the last few years, I’ve suffered through several losses. My father died of Alzheimers in August 2015. Not long afterwards, my stepmother, a cousin, and a nephew all died. In December of last year, my cat started sneezing blood. I spent about 3 months and $3000 shlepping him to the vet, seeing various specialists, nursing him through 4am nosebleeds that made my bathroom look like a murder scene, and dealing with a diagnosis of terminal nasal cancer..ALONE.
At one point, I was so stressed out by all of this that I ran into someone merging onto the highway during a rainstorm. Because my registration was a week late, the cops impounded my car.
So here I was, dealing with a dying cat and coping with getting my car out of impound so it could be fixed. Plus, figuring out how to pay umpteen costly traffic tickets from my accident and navigating traffic court.
Four days after my accident, my cat’s breathing became so obstructed by his tumor that I knew the only compassionate thing to do would be to put him to sleep. I scheduled a vet to come and put him down at home, so he would die in peace. The vet injected him with a sedative while I held him in my arms. Once the vet indicated my baby was gone, I couldn’t even stand to be in the same room. I had to retreat, devastated and crying hysterically, to my bedroom, until the vet took him away to be cremated.
Once again, I had to deal with this ALONE. Nobody really stepped up to the plate to be with me. A friend offered, but then she had a work obligation that interfered.
Now, I’ve been single off and on for a long time. I’m used to having to face shit on my own. And I’m an exceptionally strong person. I’ve been through a lot of shit. But this was getting to be too much.
I am also a very open person on social media. Throughout my trials and tribulations, I was very honest with my 1000+ Facebook friends about my struggles. Every time I posted something awful that was happening, I got TONS of sympathetic replies, mixed with crying and sadface emojis. But not ONE offer of a phone call or a visit, or a single offer to help cart my cat to the vet.
It wasn’t until the vet had taken my cat’s dead body away, and I could barely function, that I finally posted CAN SOMEONE PLEASE PLEASE HELP ME DEAL WITH MY CAR? It took an urgent, frantic, blunt, BEGGING plea before people finally stepped up to the plate and offered to help get my car out of impound. And I am eternally grateful to the few who did, as Philly traffic court is a clusterfuck of suck. Without the support of my friends who SHOWED UP to hold my hand, I simply could not have endured the 3-day process of hell required to get my car to the body shop.
All of this prompted me to consider how social media has ruined our relationships in many ways. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big proponent of the internet, and I do believe Facebook can actually bring people together. I use Facebook a lot to schedule actually IRL time with my friends, and to keep in touch with old bffs who are far flung around the country.
However, I’m almost 50 years old, so I’m old school. I can remember a time when people were more “there” on a physical and emotional level as friends, because they didn’t have technology to give them a lazy “out.” And I truly do believe this is what social media has done — given us lazy “outs” in many situations that would have previously required a phone call, or at least an offer to be physically present for someone who’s having a tough time.
And I don’t mean for this article to sound like sour grapes. I hold no resentment against my friends who were either too busy to step up for me, or who underestimated my strength or my resources. I get that people have their own lives and their own concerns. I’m just hoping to make people think about the ways they use social media, and to ask themselves: Has social media become a substitute for real, meaningful, interpersonal interaction?
An article in the Chicago Times examined this exact question and found that our increasing reliance on digital communication has left many of us STARVING for “hugs, smiles and literal shoulders to cry on.”
“We may reach for our phones when we really should be throwing our arms around loved ones. Sometimes it takes more than an emoji to cheer us up.” Amen. We need to GET BEYOND THE EMOJIS. Depending on how close I am to someone geographically, I now try to make it a point to follow up a Facebook post with a more personal offer: “Are you ok? Do you need anything? If you want to talk, I’m here. Call me anytime. Can I bring you anything?”
I hope this article is not just a wake-up call but a message to my friends. If you ever get to the point that I did, where you feel you have to IMPLORE or BEG for a shoulder to cry on, or a good listener..please, message me. I’m here. PHYSICALLY here for you.
Copyright 2017 S. Wade