This Christmas wasn’t exactly a Norman Rockwell painting for me. I actually spent most of the week sick with a nasty head cold. I was working from home, so mostly I had my laptop in bed with me. Given the timing of the holiday, our work schedules, and the distance to our families, my wife and I spent the day on our own. Now, given how much of 2015 I spent traveling, being home for the holidays isn’t the worst thing, so I’m not complaining, but there was no big family gathering for us this year.
Since I was still recovering from my cold, we didn’t really make any plans beyond just hanging around at home, which gave me plenty of opportunities to check out what other people were posting on social media about their Christmas celebrations. As I did this, I realized that despite not being with our family and friends on the holiday, I felt connected to them. I was able to see them in photographs and videos taken at gatherings and shared online. I was able to read about their happiness at being with family, as well as their struggles with missing loved ones whom they lost this year, or with family members who are away serving in the military, or dealing with illness, etc. Reading all of that made the day much more than a day at home. I couldn’t physically be with my friends and family, but I could still interact with them, think about them, share a bit of their lives, and so on, all because of these online social tools.
I think we tend to minimize social networks because they aren’t a replacement for actually spending time with people. I’m not saying that they are, but having them, and being able to keep in touch with people I care about, or interact with other people who have the same interests as I do, such as other survivors, obviously, is so much better than not having them. Without them, I might have made a phone call or two, and spent the rest of the day at home with my wife. With them, I got to spend that time with my wife, and still know how many, many people spent their holiday, and share a tiny bit of it with them.
That’s something that simply wasn’t possible 10-15 years ago. When you really sit back and think about it, that’s pretty amazing. Sure, social networks also have plenty of issues, because they connect us with people, and people are messy. I’ve spent the last 14 years writing about being a child abuse survivor and connecting with other survivors, so believe me when I say that I know all about how messy people can be. (Let alone the other tech enthusiasts, sports fans, or photography buffs I’ve also connected with.) But with the messy parts, we also get the positive. The kind words, the laughs, the shared tears, and the warmth of simply sharing our own lives are things that we get by being connected online. Those are the things that life is all about, and I’m for anything that give us more of it.
So yeah, I missed out on some stuff this holiday season, but I also got to share an awful lot too, despite of the fact that I wasn’t able to get out. Thanks to everyone who shared a little bit of their holiday with us!