Sunflowers and Social Media

How often do we hear that Twitter, Facebook et al are a scourge of today’s society, a cesspit of spite and vitriol? I’d need a hundred hands even to be able to start counting the times.

And sure, you don’t have to peel back any layers to find poison-filled, aggressive, trollshit swirling around. You only have to take a brief glance at the comments on online newspaper articles, or follow anyone on Twitter with a public platform on Twitter you’ll need to bleach your eyeballs clean after seeing some of the hideous tweets sent to them. Whatever people think of somebody else’s personal or political opinions, wishing death, rape and terminal diseases upon them or their families, or making direct death threats, is a shitty thing to do.

But neither do you have to look far to find an enormously valuable sense of community, strong friendship, support, help and laughter. I wrote about this a few years ago, and want to revisit the topic now:

pinSomeone sent me sunflowers yesterday.

We don’t really know each other, and may never actually meet. We live on different continents, in different hemispheres. But she knows sunflowers are one of my favourite flowers, and cares enough to send me a whole field full of them.

We’d never heard of each other a few months ago, until we both joined a Facebook support group for trigeminal neuralgia, and now she’s sending me photos of my favourite things. 

The world used to seem so vast. When I was a kid in the UK, falling in awe of the volcanoes and hot mud guesers of New Zealand, the other side of the world seemed a million miles away.

Now I live on the other side of the world, and on clear days, within view of two volcanoes. When I was a kid, overseas phone calls were expensive enough to feed a family of four for a week. Now I am overseas, and I can make hour-long calls to England for the price of a bottle of Coke. I can photograph the volcanoes, and Instagram them to all my friends everywhere.

dav
Mr Egg, wearing a yellow wig and crying yolky tears because he is broken

Twenty-five years ago, my daughter would rush home from school with pictures she’d painted for me, models she’d made. I’d pin them to the kitchen wall and place them on a shelf, and visiting family and friends would ooh and aah. Now my young grandchildren are creating art for me, and when I post them on my Facebook wall, the audience of oohs and aahs is exponentially multiplied.

If I get homesick for places I haven’t visited in over a decade, GoogleEarth takes me on a walk around old haunts, or google images cough up every angle of my old hometown.

And when I comment in a Facebook support group that I love sunflowers, a semi-stranger from halfway round the world sends me a bunch of sunflower photos. It’s a potent reminder of a favourite adage of my Nanna’s, the one about how it’s thoughts that count.

Maybe I can’t smell these sunflowers, or touch the velvet of their petals, or watch how they dance in the summer breeze. I can’t hear the refrigerator hum of the bee nosing in amongst the seeds. I can see the jewel-bright colours – dark greens, vivid yellows, the polished blue of the sky, but I can’t feel the heat of the sun.

sunflower-3659650_960_720What I can feel is the strength of community, of solidarity these photos show. It’s like an emblem of hope, a reminder that no matter how bad the pain of trigeminal neuralgia can get, in this group on Facebook, there are people who want to help, any way they know how. 

Sometimes it’s with knowledge. Sometimes with experience. Sometimes an ‘I hear you’, and sometimes a pretty picture of flowers you said you love. But always, always, with help.

For many people, despite the sense sometimes that the internet and social media is like wading through a sewer, it is also a lifeline. I know my life would have been immeasurably narrower without social media. Since my health took a nose dive into the morass of chronic auto-immune and connective-tissue diseases, my ability to engage with the world outside my front door has been severely curtailed. Maintaining contact even with friends who live within a few kilometres of me is difficult enough in real life, never mind those who are twelve thousand miles away.

Because of Facebook, I have been able to ‘meet’ other people dealing with the same rare conditions I have. It’s more likely I would have won the lotto jackpot than meet these people in real life – when you have a ‘1 in 15,000 people’ condition, you don’t tend to run into too many other 1s in the neighbourhood. You have to find them. Online is the easiest way.

I’ve been able to research vital information about my conditions from medical organisations like the British Medical Journal, Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkin Hospital, and other reputable places, which has helped me to get correct diagnoses and more effective treatment from medical personnel

Because of support groups, I’ve learned so much about the whackier symptoms that you could easily think were something only you experienced, when doctors don’t know about them.

davI’ve found a collection of exercises, of relaxation videos and meditations that are now a vital part of my pain management toolkit. I’ve found videos that help me learn to paint with oils (still trying!), draw with pastels, and design with Inkscape.

Because of Pinterest, I’ve a huge, visual cornucopia of ideas for interior decor, things to sew, places to visit, garden layouts… I could go on for ever!

I can still explore the world even when funds and physical capacity are in short supply.

I can make purchases from the warmth and comfort of my armchair during weeks of flare-ups that make leaving the house a painful chore.

Because of Twitter, and Facebook private messaging, I can chat daily with family and friends no matter how far away. I can socialise with other writers, other bloggers.

Because of the internet, my life is still full, rich, and varied – and full of sunflowers.

Like any tool, social media is what we make of it. We can use it to troll and stalk and bully and deride. Or we can use it to learn, to laugh, to live, to love. Which do you choose?

53 thoughts on “Sunflowers and Social Media

  1. Great post Trish, during a week that has highlighted the rise in suicide rates amongst the young as an apparent result of social media sites. Since I had to stop working, I have found so much help and support within the online chronic illness community – a different kind of support to that coming from friends and family. I would honestly feel lost now without that support and that outlet to ask questions, to vent at times and to just chat! Hope you don’t mind, I have included your post in my regular feature Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You! Claire x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Claire. I suspect teenagers use social media quite differently, but perhaps need showing the more positive ways it can be used. I don’t mind at all you including my blog – thrilled, in fact!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this positive attitude. Social media has it’s faults, but that doesn’t negate the positive sides to these platforms. Connections can be made with people you would never have access to in your daily life. Such a beautiful message!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Trish, Thank you!! This post is so true in so many ways. We all have our own journeys and if we choose to share them, there will be some that respond in a negative way, this is just life behind the screen! I love that you stay positive and your message is always done with love and integrity!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this post Trish. It really hits home. The other day on my insta story, I mentioned how instagram no longer felt like a social media platform for me, but rather, it felt like a tribe made up of people whose journeys I am a part of, even though we will never meet. Yes, there is negativity on social media. But there is far more good. And I have met some people who are truly awesome. Thank you for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Ayanda. I love the way you describe it, a tribe made up of people whose journeys you are a part of. That’s so true.

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  5. This is such a sweet post. The Internet really does help people connect and open their options. Being from a small town, I never felt like I fit in, but then the internet happened, and suddenly, people just like me were at my fingertips.
    Though I am guilty of occasionally stirring the troll shit, it’s all in fun.
    I am so happy you have such a positive experience connecting with others.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for your perspective. Yeah, just like the real world we see reactions, commentaries and inconsiderate messages, but just like in the real world, we have the power to see the positive, to connect with like-minded souls, and to share kindness with others. Thanks for your post

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post. It’s very easy to see Social Media as this monster that brings out the worst in people, but it’s just like any other tool, and in the right hands, it can be used to engage with people and create very positive and lasting relationships. There are some people who I’ve never met in real life who I consider to be good friends with because of our relationship on FB. It’s all in how you use it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I think it’s important to be aware of the nastiness and dangers, without losing sight of how valuable a tool it is too.

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  8. I love this perspective. As someone who is an introvert and struggles with major depression recurrent, PTSD, anxiety, etc., it is good to know others who know how it feels. People don’t realize that for those of us who love the written word more than the spoken word that social media can definitely be a place to build community.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love this. One of my favorite parts of social media is that it has allowed me to stay in touch with family and friends who live far away. I can see a live video of my cousin’s children playing hockey 800 miles away or use Facetime to read a story to my three year old grandson 2000 miles away. It’s just amazing how it’s changed our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s brilliant for keeping close to family living far away. We’ve even been known to video-message our grandkids who only live twenty minutes awat – but if they are home from school sick they love getting a video call!

      Like

  10. I love this post. Yes, there is a lot of negativity in social media, but it is balanced with a lot of positivity, too. It’s refreshing to have someone point that side out. Is considered doing the same thing. I love the stories and was totally drawn in to your entire post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I think it’s important to be aware of the negatives, but not if that means overlooking the positives.

      Like

  11. I’ve pointed out that social media can have a negative effect on self-esteem of young people because they are comparing their lives to someone’s highlight reel and how they choose to present themselves to the world, but at the same time there’s such a strong community of supportive people out there on social media with varied interests whose kind words and pictures inspire me to create, be kind, be myself, and make a positive difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. ‘I know my life would have been immeasurably narrower without social media’ Can’t agree more! I would have never met so many wonderful people , or would have never reconnected with some child hood friends! Very well written post!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve learned to just scroll by the negative stuff, because there’s so much of it. It honestly takes too much energy to be a troll behind a keyboard. I love that you point out how wonderful it is to connect with others on social media that you wouldn’t have otherwise found. It’s a pretty amazing thing, really.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Social media definitely has it’s problematic side, but there is also a beauty to it. I will never forget the generosity of a dear online friend I met on Livejournal, of all places. In my early twenties, I won tickets to a star-studded ball, but much like Cinderella, I didn’t have ANYTHING to wear (and I had no money). When my friend heard of my dilemma, she mailed a dress of her’s from TN to MD for me to wear to the ball. It fit perfectly, and I felt like a million bucks in it. I will cherish that dress (and of course, my friend) forever. My own version of sunflowers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Beauty is a lovely way to describe it – and such a lovely memory for you of your friend’s kindness. Online friends are just as good as face-to-face ones.

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  15. this is such a great post darling! i think social media can be empowering but also debilitating depending on the context being used. anything in excess is not good though, so i’ve been trying to practice everything in moderation so that i can preserve my sanity while enjoying social media!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Yes! I have lived with autoimmune arthritis since I was four years old and grew up without really knowing anyone in “real life” who also had this condition — sure, I met other kids like me in hospitals, but had no community once I was home again. And all these decades later, I have found my tribe online. The information, the support, the friendships with people I’ve never met and will likely never meet. We talk online, we talk on the phone, we talk on Skype. All of them have made my life so much better.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I make a point to choose to ignore the negative and focus on the positive of social media. As you said, the negative is definitely there, but so is a lot of good. I’ve meant so many moms going through the same things I am as a new working mom. I never imagined the friendships and support I would develop with a group of women I’ve never meant and may never meet, but I enjoy our online community.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I love your writing Trish and I agree with social media being both good and bad. It has allowed me to connect with several people I would have never found again in my lifetime and also helps me keep in touch with family that is far away. There are too many keyboard warriors out there these days who fight from behind their computer. I wish they’d all just go away for good. Great story as always. We have wineries here on Long Island that have fields of sunflowers as far as you can see. You may just get a picture from me come Autumn.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Scott 🙂 Yeh, keyboard warriors are definitely a nasty stain on the webz. Can never have too many sunflowers though!

      Like

  19. This is very timely. We’ve had a lot on the news over the last couple of days about how bad social media is. And yes, in many ways it can be, but for people in the disability community, it really can be a lifeline. I was disabled pre-internet, and it could be a lonely world sometimes. Social media has certainly made a difference to my life.

    Liked by 2 people

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