On Christmas Day in 2011, 42 year old Simone Back posted this message to her 1,082 Facebook ‘friends’.
Took all my pills be dead soon bye bye everyone.
The police knocked the door down the next day and found her body. She’d killed herself.
Nobody went to help her, despite some of them living within walking distance of her house. There were some who were desperately trying to get her details but unfortunately were out of town.
As if this isn’t bad enough, while she lay dying, some of her so called ‘friends’ were taunting her.
This person replied,
She ODs all the time and she lies.
It makes me feel incredibly sad. The lady was in mental distress and was reaching out for help. Where was the compassion? Where were all her so called friends?
Can online friendships be real friendships?
Despite the heartbreaking opening story, I think so.
I’ve made some really lovely online friends who I genuinely care about. I might not have have the pleasure of meeting them in person yet but they are part of my life and they matter to me.
There was no such thing as social media when I was a kid. We had pen friends and it was exciting waiting for a letter to come through the post. I had a French penfriend and remember that she had beautiful curvy handwriting and used little hearts instead of dots above her i’s. I remember that I tried to write like her for a while but no matter how hard I tried, my writing still looked like a spider had rolled in ink and break-danced across the page.
Like most people of my generation, I have adopted social media and found it to be a lifeline..
Even my Ma went online! She was absolutely delighted when she realised that she could bollock me via MSN. I’d jump a mile every time the little box pinged up saying, “I know you’re there, Madam!!”
Being the parent of an autistic child in a mainstream school can be socially isolating. I am the mother of ‘that child’. I am a pariah – a social outcast.
Or this was the case until recently when I found a fellow autism mum at school. We’re now good friends. Hurrah!
And just this week another mum came up to me at school and asked if I was S’ mummy. My heart sank and I thought, “Shit…what’s he done now?” but she surprised me by asking if we wanted to go on a play date! I picked my jaw up off the floor and thanked her. Maybe my pariah days are over?
It’s lovely to be able to go to somebody’s house, sit with a cuppa and have a chat, safe in the knowledge that my little boy can be himself. Being able to talk to someone who ‘gets it’ is wonderful. I get hugs, too.
But in general, me and the boy are given a wide birth. He might be oblivious to the judgmental stares but I’m not. Sometimes it gets to me and that’s where the online support becomes invaluable.
Added to that, oh joy of joys, I’m agoraphobic!
I struggle in crowded areas and can’t stand where all the parents congregate without hyperventilating and touching my house keys umpteen times. After 44 years I’m used to being me. I’m probably labelled as shy (or weird) by the yummy mummy’s club but it’s not shyness and I don’t really give a shiny shite what they think anyway. Eff the lot of em, I say! It does isolate you though because you try and avoid those situations which make the old circuits spark.
My little man displays challenging behaviour and it is mentally exhausting. but whenever I’ve really needed to ‘talk’ to someone, without fail, there’s always been somebody there. It makes the difference between coping and crying myself into a coma.
We all need friends. We all need to communicate with others. We are a social species. Even the most introverted of us needs a friend. We need to feel loved, appreciated – needed.
People with friends (and I mean friends, not just a trillion Facebook ‘friends’) live longer and are happier. Lonely people are more likely to die younger. Now there’s a sobering thought…
When my mother died, there were a couple of special ladies who were there for me. I’d never met them but they got me through one of the worst times in my life. One of those ladies also has an autistic son and she was there for me from the very beginning of our autism journey. I am indebted to her. She’s a lovely person.
The posse of online autism parents support each other and that support means so much. We are a band of mothers fighting for our special children. If one of us is having the day from hell, the others step up and offer words of comfort. It really helps.
Social media is an eclectic mix of personalities. It gives the narcissists a platform on which to inflict their relentless selfies on the world and puts like minded people in touch. It allows the socially awkward to be themselves without the obstacles which hinder them in ‘real life’. The downside to social networking is that it allows for anonymity and while that it a good thing for those who have a genuine reason for wanting to remain unknown, it unfortunately leaves the door open for abuse.
My life is enriched by a few special friends and they know who they are. They make me smile most every day and are proof that online friendships can be a real friendships. I would never ignore their cry for help and I hope they would never ignore mine.
Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…. ~ C S Lewis