I got mail today. You know, the real kind. It was a lovely letter hand written by Debra, and sent from Chicago because at some point early in the year I said I’d love to be on her list of people she wanted to connect with in 2012.
Debra’s word of the year is connect… so it may surprise you that she actually shut down her twitter and facebook accounts and is connecting [OMG] In.Real.Life.
I applaud her. So much of my connection has been done online lately. Not all of it, I’m not yet reduced to spending all day in my jammies, ordering pizza to be delivered and shuffling to the door in my slippers to collect it. But, as I spend all day at the computer, there are any number of conversations happening on Skype, group chats on the forums I work on and occasional ‘pop ups’ from friends who are working, much the same way as me, in their home offices, or in cafes and co-working spaces. I live in a seriously connected world.
But I’ll be honest, it’s easy to mistake those connections for real life relationships and to be brought up short when they’re gone. The loss of them feels every bit as real as if a friend had slapped you in the face, turned her back and walked way saying she never wants to see you again.
Every bit as real.
How do I know? I’ve been there, and have spent a good part of the last couple of months completely bemused (read sad and disappointed) that the person I’d been chatting to daily, sometimes for hours, apparently found it a lot easier to switch off our connection than I did to be the one who was being switched off from! Frankly, I’m still surprised at how deep it cut.
I appreciate that life changes, you fall in love, become a step mum, start your own business and all of a sudden all those things you used to find taking up your time become quickly relegated to bottom of the priority heap in the face of all of these exciting, challenging new responsibilities. I get it. I really do and I don’t begrudge these wonderful things happening, I applaud and celebrate them all.
What I’m most disturbed by is not that I no longer have that connection, what I’m challenged by is that it meant so much to me, and that someone could have walked away without even an explanation or a ‘see you round’. It ended on a note of ‘I’m heading out of town for a week’ catch you when I get back – and I basically never heard from her again, at least not in my Skype window, and certainly for no more than a ‘Hi’ nice of you to contact me.
So it left me asking myself, how do I know that actually, any of it was real? She could have used a pseudonym, she could have been a 60 yr old man, sitting behind a computer playing with me for all I know. And why the hell do I care?
I don’t think there are any answers. I think there are lessons. The lessons are straightforward.
Guard your heart.
Don’t assume they feel the same.
And for goodness sake, don’t call it a relationship (or a friendship) until you’ve actually met, until you know more than their handle and avatar, and until you have looked them in their eye and gauged just how genuine they are.**
** Or, have read their handwriting on a beautiful card – as I did today – thanks Debra for that and for the inspiration to blog* this!!!
*Don’t hold your breath though for much more… unless you want to head over to http://thewebprincess.com and read technical mumbo jumbo!!