This year, I’ve been reflecting on community—the lack thereof in most of our lives—and the benefits of feeling like you belong. I’ve also been thinking about the role of social media in the midst of all this, and it led me to decide to become more of an open book these past few months. Here’s why.
Where did everybody go?
When I look back to my grandmother’s generation, religion played an important role in bringing people together around common values and beliefs and supporting them through difficult times. Today, those of us who aren’t involved in a religious community don’t have that anchor! Especially in the city, everyone minds their own business and goes about their lives, picking and choosing whom they interact with and how much.
But there is definitely something to be said for large communities that meet, touch base regularly and support each other in spite of their differences… And to me, it feels like we should strive to recreate one around us—for ourselves—but also for those around us whom we can help and support. Reflecting on this, I started thinking about the role of social media in our lives and wondering how we could leverage it to create virtual communities around us, or at least, get some positive out of using them rather than just feeling deflected after scrolling mindlessly when we are bored or tired.
Sharing hard times
A few months ago, I went through a miscarriage that was just a massive blow, because it was so unexpected and because we had our minds set on one last pregnancy before I turned 40. At first, I was so overcome with grief that I didn’t know how to crawl out of it. And if you see me on a regular basis, you know that I’m a positive, optimistic person—bubbly and happy by default.
One morning, as I was about to write and share an article on something that seemed rather trivial in comparison to what I was going through—I think it was on the low impact lifestyle or something like that, I sat down at my computer and my fingers and heart told another story. It was Peanut’s story—the Peanut we would never get to know. And on a whim, I shared that with the world. With my loyal readers, with my Facebook friends… With what to me, felt like the world.
What came of this was a wave of affection and understanding so great, that I suddenly felt much less alone. But the best part was, that other women (and men, even!) had felt understood and I knew that my words had been comforting to them, too. Suddenly, my miscarriage was about our mutual grief, about grieving for something that so many have gone through but don’t speak about, and we grieved together, united by my story.
A few months later (yup, it’s been a rocky year), my youngest son had emergency surgery and was hospitalized for 12 days. During this intense ordeal, we were terrified… After an immense amount of pain and a scary surgery, he briefly seemed to get better, and then he took a turn for the worse. As days went by, he just kept getting worse, and no one could figure out why.
Tired and anxious, I started to share news every day through Facebook and Instagram, explaining what was going on and where we were at. At first, it was a way to share info without having to write every person in our surroundings one by one, but as days went by, we got more and more kind messages from people who were not in our immediate circle, but were touched by Loulou’s story.
What we realized in that moment was that the people that were most like us came forth, ready to act, help, do whatever was needed to support us. Because if you know me, you know that if you are in a real pickle—even if I’m just the girl who deadlifts beside you on weekdays—you can reach out and I’ll be there, whatever you need.
I’ll never forget the kindness of people in my community that I may not have much contact with in recent years, but were there in heart in these rough times. And even if I did not take them up on their offers to help, I know they would have followed through and been there if we needed them too. I now know that they are close by—even if silent most days and watching from afar—and that if anything happens, I can count on them. And that is pretty comforting, don’t you think?
Sharing Beauty and Joy
Once I realized the power of having a community and leveraging social media to create ties with people that are like-minded, I thought it would be nice to share beauty and joy with these people as well. Sharing passions also seems like a way to create stronger ties with people that I don’t have much contact with, but who might share a love for the same things!
So, instead of just sharing photos of my kids, I started to share videos of me playing the piano, of CrossFit, or just of simple things that moved me or made me laugh. I also shared articles I wrote for TSHU. And that created other waves of interesting conversations! Some people came to me at the gym, telling me they had been moved by something I shared, others wrote me or called me to chat.
For those who knew me less, it was a way of unveiling potential topics of conversation and learning about each other deeper than just appearances … and for those who know me well, it was a way of keeping them updated.
As time goes by, I realize that the more I share, the fewer inhibitions I have about speaking my mind, telling it like it is, asking for help, and letting people get to know me. The more I share, the more opportunities come my way, the more ties I create and foster with people I enjoy sharing with, the more I feel like I have a true community around me.
So, unlike what I had been thinking for years, social media can, in a way, be leveraged to build a community and it can be comforting if you use it authentically!
Today, I want to extend an invitation to those around me to share their stories, to share hard times and beauty with me—and perhaps even the world. Instead of using social media to make each other jealous or to vent, why don’t we use it to create ties and foster relationships? If you want to join my community, know that I’m here—really here—listening to all of you that have an open heart, as I share my thoughts and my life in the hope to make you smile or reflect along my side.