As much as I dislike social media sometimes, this past week I experienced how it can lead to wonderful connections. My husband needed to travel to Los Angeles for a conference, and I
asked begged to go along. My reason for going had nothing to do with Disney, television or palm trees. Instead I went to meet up with three ladies from the daily writing challenge I joined last January. Participating in that challenge introduced me to Carolyn, Roslynn and Tonia. We’ve skyped and google-chatted, exchanged our writing, and critiqued each other’s work this year. They have been such great encouragers for me and for others and when the unexpected opportunity came to meet them in person, I wasn’t about to pass it up.
I was nervous. Could I lose 70 pounds in the week before I got there? Of course not. Did that matter? Of course not. Nonetheless, my insecurities were having a lot of fun without me.
I needn’t have worried–which is so often the case, isn’t it? The first person I met was Carolyn, who took me to the amazing Getty Museum. We sat on a patio overlooking Los Angeles. The sky couldn’t have been more blue, and there was just enough of a breeze to make for comfortable dining. We had gourmet fare at a leisurely pace and it seemed as though we’d been friends always. Conversation was easy, covering everything from complicated relationships to social injustices to music. Afterwards we looked at art and architecture, and because we were having such a pleasant time, we extended our lunch to the evening. My husband met us in Santa Monica, and the three of us went to a quirky restaurant on the pier where we were served by an equally quirky server.
Two days later, Tonia texted me from the lobby of our hotel. I looked around and when she smiled and waved, we knew we’d found each other. My husband and I went with Tonia to a local pizza joint where we found so much to talk about that we forgot to look at the menu. When the food arrived, we forgot to eat it. We stayed there for several hours. Again, it seemed like we’d been friends for much longer than we had been.
The next day, Tonia and I continued our conversation over breakfast. This was followed by writing time–because these are women who are interested in augmenting the act of writing with discussion of writing. It’s so often the other way around. We found a spot by the pool and with only the occasional interruption, we worked until Roslynn arrived. She’d been up forever and flew in after an emotional week just so we could meet up. We insisted she have a rest, and so we parted for a couple of hours. When we reconnected, it was to drive to Malibu and rejoin Carolyn.
What a special time we had. There was an ease and a joy in being together that I savoured more than the fantastic seafood. We teased, we laughed, and we celebrated each other. Afterwards, Tonia and Carolyn went home leaving Roslynn and I time to get to know one another better. We talked about the serious things of the world, life and death and grandmothers we adored. We easily could have talked all night long, but I had an early morning flight, so I called it at a reasonable hour.
Even though we’d said good-bye, there was so much remembering I wanted to do. My husband finally said, “Honey, it’s wonderful you had such a great time. I enjoyed meeting your friends. They all seem like terrific ladies. And I want to hear about it–but we have to get up in five hours. Now is not the time.”
I often feel the incomplete nature of social media can isolate people, but in this case, it’s fostered true friendship. I have been pondering why. It’s true that we bonded over shared interests, and this week gave us a context to learn the ways we are the same but different, different but the same. I have other online relationships however, that aren’t strong–and sometimes in-person relationships that became weaker because of online interaction.
So what then, is the difference?
I believe what makes this work is intentionality. There is an understanding among us that getting to know someone takes more effort than simply liking their statuses, and in all three cases, we’ve had more than that. We’ve decided to invest time and energy in each other.
Isn’t that always the secret though? We invest in each other. Last week for me, the reward for those efforts was huge. Connection, whether it’s online or offline, works when we are truly plugged into each other’s lives.