Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When social media becomes real

I don't know about you, but I'm connected to thousands of people via social media. Between Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr and other social networks, I have the opportunity to interact with countless people every day. I will never meet the vast majority, but I enjoy the glimpses they give me into their lives and equally enjoy opening up selected pieces of my own life for viewing. I relish the mediated experience and interaction. It's just enough for a Meyers-Briggs introvert like me.

This is all well and good most of the time. Sometimes it loses the comfortable gloss of the virtual and becomes starkly real. Sometimes I am forced to remember that behind each tweet, each status update, each pin, there is a real person with a real life and real feelings. Like now.

I have a Facebook friend, one among many, whom I have never met. This is common for me, I use Facebook as a way to connect with other storytellers and writers. This Facebook friend posts a lot and often content I don't want to read - really personal stuff, rather than the story and performance related content I look forward to from him. For that reason, I didn't connect with him on Twitter. So it was through a common Facebook friend that I found out he'd gone missing.

Two days ago he posted the following string of tweets:
  • Thanks for the memories, folks; it's been real ... something. G'night ... goodbye.
  • There ... now we wait ...
  • I do wish I could've seen the ocean #1lasttime.
He's posted nothing since. His friends have started Facebook and Twitter campaigns, urging him to check in, urging anyone who may have seen him to contact the police. They are worried. We all are.

And yet... and yet. I have never touched or seen him, but my heart twists with concern. Here I am, worried about someone I have never met. Checking for status updates or tweets, hoping he will let us know he is alive. I do not know this man personally. I have never met him or heard his voice. And yet. Because we are connected through this tenuous medium, through the aether of the internet, he is real to me. I hope he is well. I hope he has found help. I hope he has found hope.

And this is the case for so many of us. Those of you who read this blog and have never met me care enough to read what I write. Those of you who have contacted me are real people, though we may never embrace, may see each other smile.

For all that pundits bemoan the disconnection created by our love affair with the screen (for all that I have wondered who we will be in a generation, if more and more of our communication is mediated) the connections we create are real. And that is a testament to the enduring power of the human heart, our yearning to know we are not alone in the darkness, our need to hear another voice - even if we hear it in pixels - that says, "I feel this way, too. I love these things, too. In the midst of the aether, through millions of electrons racing through cable and across oceans, we are connected."

Jay, if you're out there, we are here. You are not alone. You are loved. Come home.

(c)2012 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. Xo Laura! Knowing you I know your (wonderfully loving and caring) heart is worried! I hope jay comes home and you all can breathe a calming breath

    1. Thank you, Joy. We've heard nothing from him as yet. All I can do is send him love.

  2. So very heartfelt...

    I think at times people might even be more open on the ether of wavelengths. The computer screen somehow serving as a smoke screen of protection giving them a blind in which they can be honest.

    I hope Jay hears all the messages and knows he has friends that care. (Hugs)Indigo

    1. Thanks, Indigo. I agree, I think we all need a buffer between ourselves and the world sometimes to allow greater honesty. I'm just so sad that he wasn't able to get the help he needed when he needed it.

  3. As a follow up - Jay has been found. He's in the hospital and getting help. Thanks for your concern.


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