We are happy to share a guest post today from one of our contributors, Jennifer Swartzvagher, who blogs at Beyond the Crib. Have your online friendships ever become real life friendships?
Before the dawn of Facebook, Twitter, and texting, I longed for adult conversation during the afternoon. After wrangling a toddler and infant all morning, naptime became “me time.” Alone in the house, I looked to the computer to keep me company.
Luckily enough, there were countless other moms just like me wandering around cyberspace. We were bleary eyed after countless episodes of “The Big Comfy Couch” and “Blues Clues.”
We connected on bulletin boards tied together by a common thread. After typing in my interests, a bunch of matches were thrust at me. The options were endless. All I needed to do was find a board of like minded women and jump in. I could share as much or as little as I wanted. A lot of times, I started out slowly lurking and getting a feel for the atmosphere. Baring your soul to complete strangers can be intimidating.
Some people we meet online fabricate stories and are looking for someone to prey on. Both in life and online, we have to be careful with whom we interact. I learned the hard way how to figure out who the trolls were.
As the months went by, I found a safe place to ask questions, vent, and form friendships. Granted, I didn’t know these women “in real life,” but that didn’t make our relationships any less valid. Looking back, now that face to face interaction seems to be few and far between, these online relationships parallel the ones I maintain through Facebook.
Still, I yearned for face to face interactions. We all need friends in real life, even if our online relationships are filling that need. I had come to find that chatting online could not replace time spent with friends. Mommies need playdates too.
Online friends can’t fill all the needs that real life friends can. Online friends can’t bring you a meal during a time of need, carpool to dance class, or spend the day with you at a moments notice. I would have looked pretty silly dragging my desktop to the mall for a day of girl talk and shopping.
I searched the internet and started to hook up with a few local mommy groups. Some groups which required more face to face over virtual didn’t work into my busy life as I juggled 4, 5, or 6 kids. Finally, I found a local mommy bulletin board. We may live 45 minutes or even an hour away from each other, but we were local enough to share a common bond. The relationships could stay strictly online or develop in the real world.
A little guarded at first, I dipped my toes in gradually. While being local was a plus, I wanted to make sure that I protected my privacy and my emotions to ensure I wouldn’t get hurt.
It didn’t take long for me to jump in, feet first. Girls Night Out and breakfast dates followed. With our busy schedules, most of us rarely get to see each other, yet when we get together, we a chat as if we just saw each other yesterday. It is like no time has gone by.
Our local board doesn’t exist anymore, mostly due to the dawn of social media. We picked up and relocated to Facebook. Come to think of it, my original national mommy board is there too. Thanks to social media, we are all connected to each other on so many levels.
Over the years, these women have become my family. It just goes to prove that real life happens online too.