Sunday, December 27, 2009

Social Media and The Kindness of Strangers

I started blogging to have a creative outlet. I was new to the town I lived in, I missed my friends. I was a mom who used to have a career as an actor, and my audience, while appreciative, was much smaller. I wanted to stretch my creative muscles as a writer. I wanted to reach out and see who else might think the same crazy thoughts as me.

The first person to comment on my blog was my dear pal suttonhoo, she of the gorgeous photos and amazing stories. She had inspired me to try blogging by sending me a link to hers so that I could keep up with her life in Chicago. The second person to comment was someone I didn't know, but she left me such a lovely comment, and I felt so giddy knowing that someone out there had found me and liked what I had to say, and felt, as I did, that this parenting trip was just the most amazing thing on earth.

Over the next three years, I was fortunate enough to develop more of an actual real-life friendship with Amy, and her Dallas Posse, and last spring, my hubby surprised me with a weekend trip to Dallas. Just me. Gulp. I'd meet these people in person, and what if, what if, what if? It turns out these people were the real deal, they were true friends to each other, and the Fabulous Franklin family opened their home and their hearts to me over the weekend. I felt completely at ease and at home and I carry them in my heart every day now.

Once, reading a comment on one of Amy's blog posts, I laughed at something someone said, and asked Amy about the commenter. She said that this person was someone I should know and I should follow her on Twitter. I swore I wouldn't ever join Twitter. And you know how that turned out. Now I'm just a social media addict like that. It's easier than blogging, and since life has gotten more hectic since I started out here: an emotionally demanding job, managing my little family, etc., Twitter has become my default. And Facebook. But mostly for people I know in real life and Bejeweled. Who am I kidding. So, anyway, I began to follow her, and I don't know about you, but I only read about half the stuff on twitter. It sometimes makes me feel like I'm reading People Magazine: like I should get up off my ass and get a life. But I can't stop. I'll go for weeks without posting, or even looking at it. But every once in a while, I'll pop on and say "hi", or leave a link to something interesting, or leave a bit of Joe-Henry wisdom.

Yesterday, I popped on to check on how everyone's holiday's had gone, and report that I had gotten back safely from Costco without having a nervous breakdown, when I read an alarming tweet from Amy's friend. She had taken a bunch of pills with alcohol. She was asking people to find good homes for her cats. My hands went cold and slick with sweat. What? WTF? Goddamn it. I still had to unpack my groceries from Costco. DAMN it. I don't know her. Is she joking? I sent Amy a direct message. No answer. I call Amy, she just read my dm, and she's worried too. She's actually never met this person, but has a cell number and a po box. She lives in New York. I call 911, they link me to Utica, they send me to another county, I tell them, uh, I was on Twitter today and uh, I don't know this person, and she posted some alarming things. I'm feeling like and idiot - it's not like I'm standing on a bridge next to someone ready to jump. The dispatcher I talk to actually takes me seriously, despite the fact that I was using the words "Twitter" and "tweet", and takes all the info I give her. She says they'll try to find her and will get back to me. I apologize and tell her I don't know if it's a hoax, but I'd rather be wrong than feel so hugely responsible for the rest of my life if I'm right. Amy and I call back and forth, she's trying to contact her, trying to reach others she knows who know this person. They are all concerned too. About fifteen minutes go by when the Dispatcher calls me back to tell me that they have located this person and are sending medical to check her out. I think they must have heard from others as well, and luckily they found her in time. She was in the hospital at last report, and was alert. She must have a hell of a headache. I hope she'll be okay. I hope she'll find help for her hurting soul.

And while I'm glad that I followed through with my instinct, I'm also feeling like it was just too much. Too much responsibility, too much drama. I don't want to be a part of it. What if this person hates me for making that call? Many of the people who know her better are sending her love and hugs, and I am too. But I'm also angry. My opinion of suicide is that it's selfish, dramatic and mean. I know that people sometimes just can't bear the pain. I get that. I do. I have a family member that valiantly struggles with deep depression every day, and he's my hero. And he would never, ever be selfish enough to leave us that way. What a horrible legacy to leave to those who care about you. Even if you're mad at each other. Even if you hate your life. But you know what? Change is possible, but only when you're alive.

Love to all. Hug your family. Even if you're mad at them. Especially if you're mad at them. Feelings are not facts. They come and go, and tomorrow will be a new day. Take care, and love the ones in front of you.


karigee said...

People are sad for all sorts of reasons and call out for help in all sorts of ways. In the grip of something yesterday, this woman reached out for help, and you showed her that someone she'd never even met cared enough to try to reach back -- and that's a remarkable thing. That's the essence of humanity, the only way we have (I think) of getting through this mess together. And in the midst of all the idiotic noise and the advertising shills and mass displays of arrogance and ignorance that social media can inspire, it helps to be reminded that there are people like you, who take it to heart in the best of all possible ways, and use it to connect to people who need it more than we can possibly imagine. And for that (among many things), you are my hero.

anniemcq said...

Thanks, Kari. I still feel really shaky and strange. My intent when writing this wasn't to be mean to this poor woman. I'm honestly glad I read it and responded. It's just the weight of it has me brought me too close to this truth than I want to be: we are responsible for each other. I want to be safe in my little cocoon of my known world. This past year has brought so much loss to so many people I know and love, and I think the knowledge that others outside my bubble hurt and grieve and is just overwhelming. My wish for her, for us all, is to get through, find happiness, appreciate our blessings.

I, Rodius said...

I saw it on Twitter after the fact yesterday, and I don't know what to say. A weird, weird world we live in. It is good to know there are people who would reach out from across the country to people they know in only the most marginal of ways. I don't think I'd cry out for help on Twitter, but it's good to know that if I did, you might hear me.

C said...

I don't know you, the woman or anything about this situation other than what you wrote. But, I do know that you did something that was very hard - how easy it would have been to convince yourself that this was a hoax or that someone who really "knew" the woman would figure out what to do. From one human being to another, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Love you.

Donna said...

Somebody who doesn't want to be stop doesn't tweet about it. You and Amy did the right thing, maybe the ONLY thing. Not sure how anyone could brush off a tweet like that and not wonder forever if it was real.

Big hugs. I always hoped I would never get that suicide call when I worked at KU Info in college. We were not trained as crisis counselors, but we had a protocol to get a counselor in direct contact with them ASAP. Fortunately for me, it never happened.