Lesson #3: People are Kinder than We Have Any Right to Expect
And Facebook has something to do with that. Every now and then some curmudgeonly soul takes it upon himself to make fun of “Facebook Friends.” There’s even a TV commercial that does so. Doomsday predictors say we are forgetting how to deal with real people. The usual portrayal is of isolated people sitting in darkened rooms with only a computer screen, pathetically asking, “Will someone be my friend? Please friend me.”
Well, I’m here to argue the opposite side. As a 74-year-old woman, I am probably not what you think of when you think of Facebook and Twitter users. But here I am, with over 500 friends and over 1000 Twitter links, and I’m amazed at the way the internet allows us to connect with other lives. Recently, as most of you know, I did a pratfall and managed to fracture my pelvis. The very next day, I posted a brief Twitter announcement that I was going to be out of commission for a while. Automatically it transferred to Facebook as well, and the results were astounding.
Reactions and well-wishes poured in, from a wide variety of people. I heard from a classmate I first met as a second-grade Brownie. There were former students and former teaching colleagues. Lions checked in from all over the world, a couple from as far away as Singapore, as well as a Lions Club made up entirely of medical students studying to become optometrists. Neighbors, cousins, members of the Military Writers Society of America, business colleagues, fellow bloggers, people who have read my books, connections that stretched back to the days when I was teaching medieval history, and others I know only through their internet postings — all took the time to offer condolences or ask what I needed. Just this afternoon, a local friend arrived at the door bearing seven days worth of cooked meals — chili and casseroles.
And the concern did not end there. Many followed up with cards, flowers, cupcakes, magazines, fruit, a balloon, laugh-track DVD, phone calls, drop-in visits, and hugs. Through the medium of a computer screen (or in this case, an iPhone) my hospital room expanded far beyond its institutional beige walls to bring the wider world of friends to me. I had expected to feel isolated and lonely, Instead, I felt loved. And I’m still trying to get caught up with thank-yous to all who took time to brighten my days.
I also have to note that the caring goes both ways. Since so many people reached out to me, I have paid more attention to those who are fighting their own battles — a friend who just had to have a kidney removed, a young mother struggling to carry a pregnancy to term, a mother facing her son’s addiction, a single woman with uncontrollable blood pressure problems, another with crippling back pain, and those who are dealing with RA flares.
The internet has the power to teach us all that we are a part of a larger world. That’s a good thing, and I am grateful to have had my awareness tweaked.