I both love and hate social media. I joined Facebook several years ago in an attempt to connect with other moms. It seemed like I was always missing out on fun meet ups and other last minute stuff because I wasn’t part of it. But then I quickly realized the dangerous world I had been sucked into. Social media (especially Pinterest and Facebook, but others too) is great fodder for comparison. Because no matter how good my life is, I can see someone else’s perfectly filtered version of their day, and it usually looks better than mine.
But I also saw the potential for it to be a tool to build community. I’m on a number of private forums for homeschooling, fitness, mom stuff, etc. People that are strangers but still take the time to support each other with genuine comments and encouragement. I’m lucky to be part of a couple of groups that are virtually drama free, which I love. But in the last several months I’ve been seeing how amazing and online community can be first hand.
It started with our homeschool forum for the curriculum I use, Five in a Row. It’s a fun place to share ideas and ask questions. Earlier this year I asked if anyone knew where I could get some traditional Japanese wooden clogs in a child’s size. We were reading The Red Clogs and my daughter really wanted a pair. Amid the suggestions, someone chimed in and said she’d found a pair at a local thrift store. I offered to pay her, or at least cover the cost of shipping, but she insisted that she just wanted them to go to a good home. A few weeks later, a pair of wooden clogs arrived at my door with a sweet note all the way from Texas. (We live in the North East, so that wasn’t a cheap shipping bill).
Then last week, I got a note with a generous monetary gift from a member of the fitness forum I’m part of. (Fit2B Studio, which I’m discovering is about so much more than fitness). The note itself was so encouraging. She had read a post I’d shared about a difficult day with my little ones and my frustration with lack of progress in my body. So she sent me a gift and told me to treat myself to a dinner out or a new outfit that makes me feel beautiful.
I was floored for the second time. These people don’t know me in real life. But then I realized that the sign of a good online community is where you can share your frustrations and joys and receive genuine encouragement and support in return. While this will never replace face to face friends, an online community can be a wonderful asset and a huge blessing. While there are many downsides to the technological age, this is one of it’s positives. We don’t have to live down the street, to listen (or in this case read). Good advice and kind words can traverse the miles, across oceans and continents at times. Prayers know no distance.
So if you are like many of us, and social media is a part of your day, use it well. To build up, rather than tear down, to give rather than take and to surprise the world when it seems kindness is in short supply. Better yet, don’t just hit like, do something.