A few friends of mine have quit Facebook in much the same way that the characters in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged departed from their corporations and all-too public lives in search of fulfillment. I, on the other hand, have often left the brick and mortar world around me in search of meaning and connection to others via social media. I do not question the “Hands-Free” movement; indeed, I frown too when drivers drive while distracted or diners eat while staring at their iPhones and iPads. I don’t want to be that mother who misses out on the milestones of her own children’s lives because she gets lost inside a virtual world that she carries around in her pocket.
Rewind two years. I glared at the phone and prayed for it to ring and it almost never did. I was too shy to pick the receiver up and call anyone, so I felt lonely. From the moment I traded in my Audi TT for A Volkswagen Passat and bore my first child almost nine years ago, I lived with this searing, cold, sickening loneliness born of intellectual and often physical isolation. One day, I prowled the hallways of a downtown “BIG LAW” firm; a day later, I stared at the twinkling lights rotating around my daughter’s Winnie the Pooh mobile. Each time the mobile stopped rotating and playing the same ditty, I would twirl it up and replay it again, until the tune felt as familiar as my social security number.
I still remember that little song and like so many other things from the last several years, it makes me feel happy and sad at the same time. As an ex-lawyer who had never changed a diaper, the initiation into motherhood was messy, stinky and sudden. I went from typing legal briefs and addressing judges in the formalistic language of “Your Honor” and “May it please the Court” to singing “The Noble Duke of York” out of tune to a captive audience of babes and toddlers.
For a few years, I lost myself. My day and my friendships with other mothers revolved around the playgrounds and the preschools our children frequented. And these friendships took on no more depth than an after school TV special. In the past, lacking real connections to other women didn’t bother me because I had a career and a life outside the home. I had a point. I had value, independent of the children I loved so very much.
And then it changed, gradually and then all at once. Social media drove me out of my claustrophobic four walls and helped me rediscover myself. How, you ask, could virtual relationships help a lonely woman? And how can a relationship born of the Internet result in authentic connections or mean more than ones engendered by “real life?” In my case, Facebook helps me to connect to other people all over the world who share something much more important than our zip code: common interests in writing, art and running.
Facebook benefits me as a writer even more than it helps me connect with and make friends with like-minded people. If I cannot find a word for a passage in a blog post I am creating, I can ask those kind souls who follow my Facebook Page Running from Hell with El and get a quick answer, a smile and a joke. Some of these online connections run deep. For example, I met my writing partner, Renée Jacobson, via Facebook and she has become both a dear friend and an incredible source of support, advice and help to me as I work on my novel, Ripple.
Most of you know that I am writing Ripple and that I hope to give birth to it by the end of the year. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that I also hope that many of the Facebook Page administrators with whom I interact will help me market my finished product. And while I understand that not every person who follows me on Running from Hell with El will buy my book, perhaps some of them will. In other words, Facebook benefits me on a personal and potentially professional level and for this I am eternally grateful.
Facebook is the main form of social media I use, but it is not the only one. I tweet on Twitter and I pin on Pinterest, but I am far from expert at using either social media source. For an expert view on how to use Twitter, please see Nina Badzin’s invaluable article, “Why I follow You on Twitter (and Why I Don’t).” To discover the many benefits offered by Twitter to writers in particular, please do check out Kristen Lamb’s Blog. And for an amazing tutorial on the professional benefits offered to writers and artists via Pinterest please see August McLaughlin’s Blog.
In the meantime, I love to hear from you! How do you use social media and how does it benefit you? Would you like to escape from the endless immersion of social media to the mountains or do you see infinite frontiers of hope and opportunity when you scan the social media landscape?