I've been reading a lot lately on the power of social media. A phenomenon I find fascinating. Facebook, Twitter and countless other applications that seem to pop up daily didn't exist in any form when I was growing up or even as a young adult in my 20's and 30's, but I so wish it did.
How I would have loved to text my friends or update my status hourly when I was single and working in the big city. My friends would have responded in kind, sharing their activities, arranging plans, setting up dates, coming to the rescue. How fun to be so close to each other, having those I chose to surround myself with just an instant message, a tweet away.
Bad date, stupid boss? Just type it, send it, and wait. Friends would flock. I'm sure of it, because I'm sure of the friends I had, the friendships I'd built.
Fast forward to 2010. I still have those friends. Some are parents, some are not. Some still live in the city. Some, like me, do not. None, other than me, were ever diagnosed with breast cancer.
Social media arrived too late. Just when I could have used it the most, my friends don't get my need. They can't possibly understand breast cancer. They haven't heard those life-changing words, haven't been enveloped by it from that moment on. Breast cancer became the great divider. Before, my friends and I were on the same playing field. Our scope of experiences matched. We could relate to each other, but no longer.
Sympathetic? Yeah, but sympathy is not what I'm looking for. Knowledge, awareness, stories of been there, done that, is what I need. My iPhone puts all this power of instantaneous communication in my hand and I've no way to harness it. Nowhere to go with it, no one to reach, to tweet. How could I use it to my advantage?
It was becoming clear the power lies in connecting the shared experience, something I didn't quite understand until the shared experience didn't exist. Until I no longer had a give and take relationship, but a relationship that was one-sided. My friends couldn't share what they didn't personally know. Over the past 18 months I had to endure a great deal on my own. To use a term I don't like, I had become a survivor, and to steal a popular phrase, where was my alliance? I desperately needed one.
Pushy breast cancer thrust me into an unfamiliar environment. Left me stranded on an island filled with strangers giving me no choice, but to find my way around. After the initial shock, I started to explore my surroundings, broaden my horizons, and eventually, I stumbled onto social media, an amazing find, which helped to light the way. It not only revealed blogging as a way out of the solitude, it brought the blogs of other breast cancer thrivers, and from there, it brought the women, not just the bloggers, but the readers. The others, like me, that I had been seeking all along...My new alliance.
Here were the women I could blog my thoughts to, tweet ideas, ask questions and they would answer. They understood. Social media gave me a community I didn't know existed, one I didn't even know I had been looking for, but so happy I found.
I've discovered the breast cancer blogging world to be an absorbing landscape permeated with smart, articulate women carrying a common denominator. One, I turn to via social media everyday. I'm invested now in the blogs I read, the articles that educate and the women who post it all. It's nice knowing I have allies, even though I'll probably never meet these women face-to-face. It doesn't matter. It's the experience we share. Social media gives us the power to find each other, to care about each other.
As Christmas and a new year comes upon us, I want to thank those that read this blog for your inspiration and encouragement. I wish you all a very happy, healthy 2011 filled with all good things.
One last note, if you've been reading this blog and relate to anything I may have said (or not!) and haven't commented, please do. Even if it's just to say hello. It's important knowing you're out there. It matters to me, shows me I'm on the right path and not just spouting off for my own sake, although, there is that.