"Social media is for narcissists."
I've lost count of how many times it's been said to me. It's a popular refrain among people who don't use or understand social media. It's been said by people I don't know. It's been said to me by family, as they sat at my table, eating the food social media helps provide.
They don't understand.
They don't understand social media saves me every single day. They don't understand it's not about the platforms. It's not about Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. It's about the people -- my people.
I've pretty much always been the person who doesn't quite fit. I've never really marched to the same rhythm. I'm a square peg in a land of round holes. But I found my people on the internet.
Take these two:
Tarrant and Denise at BlogHer Food '14
I have rarely gone more than a couple of days without talking to either Denise or Tarrant since... 1999? 2000? The only time I've gone for more than week without talking to them is when I've been on internetless vacations. I met them for the first time "in real life" in 2003. I've stayed at their house. They've rescued me (and Lee) from having to sleep on the floor at a gate in O'Hare. I've watched their children grow. I watched them become grandmothers. They've seen me grow and change. I amuse them and sometimes exasperate them. They know my strengths and weakness and know when I need to be told to get the hell over myself. They are real.
And this one:
Jenna and Me, the first time I visited her house for her birthday
Jenna commented on my very first BlogHer.com post but we wouldn't really connect and become true friends for another four years. The first time we met in person was in Denise and Tarrant's hotel room at BlogHer '10 and something just clicked. (I'm sure the fact I was wearing a green dress at the time helped mark me as a kindred spirit -- she does love her green.) We instant message. We text. We reach out when we're having a hard time to say, "Hey. I'm struggling. I need you to remind me to take care of me." When life gets complicated we drink gin. We brought our husbands to BlogHer '11, each hoping they'd hit it off while each of them said, "Pfft! I'm good. I don't need a new friend." Then they met and their bromance was born. (It's pretty awesome.) We visit. We send their kids presents. She is real. They are real.
Me and Cat - I knew her before she had purple hair.
Cat was the first person I knew who had a blog but we didn't meet online. We met when we both worked at the McGill Bookstore. I was a student and she started as a full time employee a couple of months later. We really became friends after a few of us discovered when her birthday was and surprised her with a cake and balloons. I've visited her in the hospital and was in her wedding. But then I moved away. Had it not been for social media it may have been the end of our friendship. I'm a horrible pen pal. Social media lets me see how her day-to-day is going when we don't have time to text or instant message or email. We schedule visits via instant message. We make plans. We share photos. We make glitter dinosaur armies. Social media doesn't just help makes friends, it helps keep them. She is real.
These are the people I interact with daily. There are others, of course, but these are the people who let me be me. They accept I'm a square peg and don't try to squeeze me into round holes. They don't try to make me fit because I'm perfectly fine the way I am.
Social media is a lot of things. Maybe to people who don't understand it -- who don't want to understand it -- it does look like narcissism to think anyone cares what we put out in the vast internet. And that's okay. They don't have to understand it or do it. But don't tell me social media is nothing. Don't tell me the people who live inside my computer and phone aren't real. They know me. They accept me. They love me just as I am. And that's so very real.