Her: “I’m only embarrassed of your social media presence occasionally.”
Me: “Oh Lord, get over it. Would you prefer me to be an old shriveled up shrew?”
Her: “No, I do not.”
...but it really became food for thought… why do I find social media so captivating?
As I began to wonder about my social media presence, I realized that one reason I am so active is that most of what I read these days is recommended by like minded friends and colleagues. These articles are filtered and I have a better idea of what I want to spend my time reading, and if I am so inclined to want to take a deep breath and read the opposing viewpoint, I know whose post to read from that angle too. (Yes, rarely...but yes...sometimes I dabble in trying to understand a diversity of views, as it helps me understand my own views that much better…or, even better, it helps me find common ground where I thought there was none.) But, there is even another more personal reason... after years and years of working with, mentoring and, quite honestly, loving hundreds of teachers, children, and parents, I WANT to know where those people ended up.
...YUP. That would be a big fat affirmative.
Let’s put it this way, I have never, ever, ever, had a lack of people in my life for face to face socializing. My social media time does not take away from meaningful face to face interactions (and ignore whatever my husband has to say about this… because I hear him talk plenty and at nauseum…). I grew up the youngest of nine, moved to college dorms and party houses, married and started a family at 24, chose a career consisting of day to day interactions with parents, kids, and teachers for 25 years, operated a school in my home for over 100 families and 7 staff members for 6 years (affectionately dubbed by many as “the commune”), and at 47, still have two children, 2 dogs, a cat and a funny little husband to keep me company in my home. Let me just repeat: SOCIAL MEDIA DOES NOT GET IN THE WAY OF MY PEOPLE TIME. It actually enables me to stay in touch with more people I love, despite differences in time zone, state, or even continent.
For the human brain, there is a self limiting number of close relationships which can be sustained with a reasonable amount of quality; perhaps known better as the Dunbar Number. The most intimate of the Dunbar numbers puts forth that the average human brain can only manage five people as your closest support group. These would be my (or your, for that matter) best friends and often family members. The next number on the scale of intimacy is 15, these are people you might turn to in times of trouble, or keep as confidantes. Lastly, there are 50 people you might call close friends or relatives, who would be invited to Weddings, Bat Mitzvahs, etc. My point is, for someone like me, who has lived the people rich life above...what happens to all the rest of the people I have known?
Further complicating my issues is my ADHD. Yes, it has been observed that adult women with ADHD have a more challenging time maintaining relationships. For instance, if you can’t find your frickin keys on an hour to hour basis, how the hell are you going to maintain multiple friendships??? For some of us, if we don’t act on a memory or thought the minute it floats to the top, it may disappear into the universe…
Back then, we might have written (snail mail) back and forth for at least a year, maybe even two, but eventually, life and distance would come between us. I still remembered my friend’s first address when she first moved away but then her Dad must have been transferred again…sigh. I even still have a picture of us dressed up in the back yard using tennis balls for our, then, non-existent boobs. I wondered where these friends were for a long time, what happened to people who made my childhood fun and who shared so much of my life with me...Then, one day I was on a social media site and someone posted to my sister in law about another someone who moved to my old home town, and that someone, happened to have the same name and lived in that said town for a few years in the 70’s! It wasn’t quite that best friend just yet, but it did happen to be her sister, and through 4 degrees of separation and this new fangled thing called Facebook, we found eachother! And the best part is that it didn’t just stop there...I could find another and another and another... and strangely enough, some of these long-lost friends were working in the same field or shared my educational values or interests. We may not have been able to be best friends again, but we did get to see who that person became as a grown up and what kind of cool kids they were raising…
When later that same year my mother died and two of my childhood friends connected on social media and shared stories about her, I began to heal because of them. These were not just ordinary stories or sympathy shared, but stories so deeply funny, in so many ways, that I laughed through the tears…despite the time and distance, they were able to give a gift no one else could.
So yes, I might occasionally be annoying on social media, but get over it. Social media may actually have more meaning to those who didn’t always have the benefit of it in their lives. And despite what you might think, when I connect with you from our long distance separation, maybe it doesn’t always mean I want to be an intrusion…maybe it means I want to be with you, someway, somehow…because even when you are all grown up, on your own, and don’t need me so much, like my best childhood friends,I still want to know you…
But then again, you can just un-friend or un-follow me… I’ll still love you.
For more on Dunbar number of friendships: