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Social media is a misnomer

Before computers and cell phones, the land-line was a link to my friends.  Any subject could be talked through inexpensively at length.  These days I don’t even know my friend’s land-line numbers.  Expensive cell phone calls are short and to the point.  As we get more busy face to face time is minimal.  I live in a bubble with my husband and children, sometimes this is lonely.

Now we have what’s app, e-mail and Facebook.  These forms of ‘social’ media are useful and near indispensable.  I can communicate so much, yet so little.  I can present my brightest, shiniest side.  You don’t see the dark side of my picturesque moon.  You don’t really see me, you see what I choose to show you.  On ‘social’ media you have to take my “I’m fine” without question.  You can’t look into my eyes to find the truth.  You can’t hear the hesitation in my voice which belies my words.

Two weeks ago my father was diagnosed with leukemia.   A few days after hearing the news, when hope replaced the raw painful shock.  I decided to post this on Facebook “To those who don’t know, my Dad was diagnosed with leukemia on Tuesday. He was booked into hospital last night and has started on chemo. Today they are doing bone marrow tests. Being the amazing man that he is, he is absolutely relaxed and not worried as his life is in God’s hands. He does not want us to panic or despair, so please don’t. All we ask is that you keep him in your prayers. As I know that he is loved by so many, I will post updates so that those who know and care for him know what is going on. The doctors have emphasised that at this point speculation is pointless.”  I knew that friends and relatives scattered far and wide would want to know of the situation.  (The fact that 12 people clicked the ‘like’ button is another subject for another day).  There were many comments, kind, sincere and caring without doubt.  These were much appreciated.  It was only when my cousin (heavily tattooed with the mouth of a sailor), phoned that I realised how much it meant to hear the genuine caring in his voice.  Messages in text, no matter how good and well intended feel so insubstantial compared to the warmth conveyed in a voice.  In all 4 people telephoned me about Dad.  2 Of my cousins, my ex-husband and my ex-mother-in-law.  At this point don’t think that I’m being judgy about those who did not call.  I would normally be among them.  I would not want to intrude too much.  I would feel a bit awkward and not really know what to say.  I would take the easier way out.

I have a feeling that many lessons will be learned during the course of Dad’s illness.  This was the first of these lessons.  Dad has also noticed that despite having many friends and family who love and care deeply for him, many have kept within the safe boundaries of ‘social’ media.  Dad thinks that they are scared, we’re not precisely sure of what.  We now know that Dad’s leukemia is treatable.  Already chemotherapy is yielding good results.

I know that next time someone who I know is going through a trial, I won’t just comment on their Facebook status, or send a what’s app,  I will pick up the phone and speak to them.  If they live in Gauteng I will get in my car and go to see them in person, even if I don’t know what to say.

12 comments

  1. I so hear you Sula – when you get a deepest sympathy text message after a death, it kind of makes you very cynical about how much you really mean to the person(s) sending the message. With bad news and the obligatory if you need anything please shout. You learn that they don’t really mean it, because if you can’t pick up the phone or get in your car then acting on the help offered isn’t going to happen. Let me not even go down the like button road. If you can’t type 3 words under a status update then don’t like it, just ignore it. Mark’s mother is famous for her like button on the worst news ever. I told him to buy her a Social Media Etiquette book, especially when you are liking your children’s bad news.
    Sending you lots of strength through this difficult time

  2. Dear Sula,

    A very well written article. We may have evolved technologically and through social media, however our communication these days lacks feelings and emotions.

  3. I am so sorry about your dad Sula – my FIL is also battling with cancer. On my birthday last week one of my highlights were when one of my social media friends called me on the phone. We ha a great talk.

  4. Sorry that your family is also dealing with this. It must have been lovely to talk to an online friend. I have many ‘friends’ who I have never met and would love to speak to or meet

  5. I am so sorry about your dad, Sula. Thinking of you xx
    One of the best things about the mom blogs has been meeting up with some bloggers in person – I think I probably appreciate that more, too.

  6. People ‘liking’ bad news statuses also blows my mind.

    I get what you’re saying. It’s so easy to quickly comment and then put the news out of your mind. It takes a lot more effort to actually engage with a person’s pain.

  7. Hi Sula, I stumbled across your Skimming Stones blog whilst doing an image search for the Spiced Coffee Restaurant at Ludwig’s Roses (somewhere I plan to take my 4-year-old these school holidays). And then I clicked on the link to this post. I really am truly sorry to hear about your dad. And I just wanted to say how deeply touched I was by a lot of your observations. I can relate in so many ways. Sending you & your family love & light, & may 2015 be a good one for you all. ~ Paula

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