Monday, November 27, 2017

Keeping in Touch

We all know the importance of keeping family and friends close. The value of a strong, supportive social network. How staying in touch with loved ones contributes to mental and physical health. 

But sometimes, keeping in touch can be, well, complicated. 

We might live miles, and sometimes continents, away from family and old friends. We're busy with work and kids. We change jobs, or retire, or move away. We might spend large chunks of the year travellingLife moves on and so do we. And people we used to see everyday gradually fall off our radar. 

view of mountains from a plane

But, staying in contact with friends and family can be more important than we realize. Isolation, especially social isolation, can be damaging to our health. According to an article by Elahe Izadi in the Washington Post our "relationships are just as important to [our] health as exercising and eating well." Surprisingly, studies have shown that while "quality relationships" are very important for adults in mid-life (mid-30's to 50's), what matters most for older adults is quantity. In other words for those of us moving into our sixties and beyond, "having a big social network" is more important than the depth of those relationships. You can read Elahe Izadi's entire article in the Washington Post here.

So what do we do when family lives far away? And friends are scattered across the country? Or if they live close, they are busy with work and family and their own lives? I don't know about you, but I've become more and more reliant on social media for keeping in touch. 

That's how I keep in touch with this cutie. My best friend from high school, Debi. She lives in Calgary, and we haven't seen each other in person since 2006, and before then it was even longer. But now Facebook allows us to keep in contact. To reminisce about those days when we were inseparable, stayed overnight at each other's homes, swapped clothes, and got up to all kinds of things that won't be revealed here. Ha. 

two women hugging and laughing
Debi and me. Calgary, Alberta, 2006
I use Facebook to keep tabs on my buddy Colleen, too. She and I have been friends since grade two. We've seen each other through some major hurdles over the years: marriages, break-ups, job and life changes, family troubles. Not to mention car troubles. There is no one I'd rather be broken down on the side of a dark highway with than this lady. Ha. Good thing we love to laugh together. She's more like a sister to me, actually. My "little" sister.  

two woman laughing with beach behind them
Colleen and me, Parlee Beach, New Brunswick, 2013
I use e-mail and social media to stay close with my family when I'm physically far away. My Mum and I  talk on the phone a few times a week, and we e-mail, especially when Hubby and I are travelling. She also reads this blog, then sometimes e-mails me her comments. My sisters and I are not often all in the same place at the same time, like in this picture below, taken when we were home for my brother's funeral. But when we're separated, we talk on the phone, message on Facebook, e-mail, and text. Like the very important text I sent my sister Carolyn this morning, with the link for the perfect bag for her on sale at Massimo Dutti. 

three woman on a deck
Three sisters: Carolyn, Connie, and me. Douglas, New Brunswick. September 2017.
Social media is great not just for staying in touch, but also for getting in touch. Three old friends and I used a Facebook page to organize our 45th junior high school reunion. It was wonderful to see people with whom I'd travelled from childhood to adolescence. From Barbie lunch boxes to training bras, so to speak. I've met old friends at reunions, who become my "friend" on Facebook, which is then seen by another old friend, who contacts me, etc etc. My friend Liz from high school and I reconnected that way. Now we see each other most times when I'm home at Mum's. We have dinner together, or go for a walk. It's been great to rekindle our friendship. 

four woman laughing
Mary, Donna, Colleen, and me. Marysville, New Brunswick, 2016.
I use Facebook, and e-mail, and texting to arrange dinners with friends here in Ottawa, organize my weekly skating/walking group, or book club meetings, or semi-annual lunches with former colleagues. Now that I don't see these people every day, I have to make an effort to stay in touch. To arrange meet-ups. And I can't imagine these events would happen if I had to call them all individually. Sheesh. Even I don't have time for that, and I'm retired. 

I know that social media is not a panacea; it can't replace real social contact. Too much reliance on social media can be harmful, especially, but not exclusively, for adolescents. Besides cyber-bullying and other malign uses of social media, too much time spent on Facebook and Instagram, in particular, can lead to poor self-image, when we begin to compare our lives with the highly edited version of our "friends'" lives we see on our screens. The experts say that social media is addictive. Overuse can affect our ability to focus, or pay attention, cause poor sleep habits, and lead to what psychologists call "perceived social isolation," which is the feeling of being isolated even when we aren't (source.) 

And obviously, interaction on social media doesn't carry the same benefits that real life social interaction does. But it does allow us to communicate with our friends and loved ones far away. Which is wonderful if we're unable to see them in person. Especially if we do more than scroll and "like" their posts. And just as importantly, social media allows us to easily arrange to meet with friends and family off the screen. In real life. 

And sometimes, social media, or in this case my blog, allows me to meet some lovely people who have similar interests. I mean who knew there were so many women my age out there who love clothes and books in almost equal measure? And occasionally those on-line relationships move off-screen and we get to meet in person. 

Just recently I met up with Rosie for coffee when I was in Stratford on my UK trip. Rosie and I first met a year ago when she and her family were in Ottawa. On the same UK trip, I had a lovely lunch and a good old natter with Wendy in Bakewell.  And Frances, who writes the blog Materfamilias Writes, and I met for a long, chatty lunch in the Byward Market here in Ottawa last year. And because I'd chatted with all these ladies over the years in the comment section of my blog, I felt like I knew them already. And, in a way, I did. Meeting and talking in person just made it more special. 

three pictures of me with new friends
Clockwise from top left: Rosie, Wendy, Frances. New friends thanks to blogging.
When it comes to relationships and social networks, on-line or in real life, what matters most, says UNC professor Yang Claire Yang, "is what those ties mean in your life. Do they provide support or strain? That's what tends to matter for health" (source.) And really, if a relationship is not a supportive one, if it's creating strain or stress, then it's not one you want in your life anyway, is it? On-line or in real life. I recently came to the conclusion that if I don't feel valued in a relationship, it's not one I want to continue. Imagine only learning that at age 61. 

But I do feel valued by the close friends and family with whom social media has allowed me to stay close. And by many of the new friends I've made and continue to make on-line. I know that staying in touch can be complicated... Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, not to mention e-mails, blogs, and texts. That sometimes keeping up with social media can be, well, wearing. When that happens I take a break. Or I cull the number of people whom I "follow." But if used in moderation, with a healthy dose of skepticism, social media should add to the quality, and to the size, of our social network. And that can be good for us. 

I mean, we're adults. We're smart. We can make wise choices. We can use social media judiciously, and enjoy the benefits, while hopefully avoiding those negative consequences. 

Don't you think? 


woman looking at cell phone over her glasses
This is my skeptical look. 

So, enough about me. Now, it's your turn my lovely on-line, and sometimes off-line, not to mention off the wall (ha) friends. How do you handle social media? Does it improve your life? Make it easier to keep in touch with friends and family? 

Do tell. 






This week I'm joining Thursday Favourite Things Link Party and Saturday Share Link-up




30 comments:

  1. Hi Sue, my online friend!!
    Through Facebook I found my very first girlfriend. Her mom is now my FB friend! We met for lunch and reminisced for hours.
    My maid of honour and I lost touch 31 years ago...life takes you down different paths. Again thru FB we connected. Another lovely afternoon of non stop chatter and promises of future lunches.
    The friends I have now I treasure and certainly don't take them for granted. Even though we are retired, they are friendships that go along for months and then we meet and it's as if we were never aparted. Love that!
    I love watching my younger cousins and their children on FB. There's a lot of negative talk about FB...I guess its all in the way you use it. I have fun on FB.
    I certainly don't have a lot of "friends" on FB...and that's just find with me!
    Robin T

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    1. Hi Robin!
      It's you that commented about my favourite children's book The Shiniest Star... isn't it? I was pretty sure but now wonder if there are two Robins who comment here.
      But back to FB. I sometimes get annoyed with some of the drivel shared on FB. But mostly I treasure being able to instantly connect to loved ones who are far away:)

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  2. I have a love hate relationship with social media. I love to hate it.

    I used to be on Facebook trying to keep up with long lost friends as you mentioned but I found it more draining than fulfilling. It seems that people love to hint at difficulties and rant non stop about problems they are unwilling to fully disclose. It drove me nuts. It is also the world's largest soap box.

    Now I keep FB and Twitter to market my blog and Etsy store. Otherwise I'm not often on those platforms and I don't miss them.

    I do appreciate my ability to Face Time my husband regularly as he lives on the other side of the world right now. We wouldn't be able to manage without it.

    My parents in BC still don't know how to use a computer and I've given up hope. It is the traditional home phone for them. I can't even get them to call me on my cell!

    None of my friends live anywhere close to where I live so I rely on emails and texts to keep in touch. It isn't ideal but one must make due.

    Instagram is the one spot I might be found thumbing mindlessly through while standing in line somewhere. I liken it to flipping through a magazine while waiting at the Dr.'s office.

    I recently watched a show that calculated the amount of time people were spending on their smart phones and it was adding up to years! One kid was going to have spent 10 years "living" on his smart phone by the time he was 75.

    I don't think when I'm lying on my death bed I'll be wishing I'd spent more time on Facebook or on my smart phone.

    Suzanne
    http://www.suzannecarillo.com

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    1. I use Twitter, Pinterest, and IG almost exclusively for my blog. Although I do follow a lot of journals on Twitter for the interesting articles. I usually scroll through Twitter and Pinterest when I'm on my exercise bike. That way I don't waste time doing only social media stuff when I could be doing something else. Finally multitasking works for me:) Most of my Facebook posts are about my blog. But I follow family and old friends so we can message each other easily.

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  3. Double-edged sword, the social media. I tend to use FB less, more as a place to stay in touch with people, rather than a place to post (apart from my blog), have never tweeted and now try hard to use my phone less in the evening. Only recently I realised that it is important to switch the damn stuff off by 8pm at the latest. But it has enabled me to get in touch, to stay in touch, and to organise meetings and reunions much, much easier than before. Keeping up with friends is important - I have seen what happens if you let your social circle dwindle through neglect and it isn't pretty. Life doesn't get easier as you get older, you just get used to handling the rough stuff. Having people around makes everything much better.

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    1. The i-phone is something I'm pretty new to, but we use it a lot when we travel. So it doesn't even get looked at when I'm at home. I will admit to scrolling IG at the doctor's office

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  4. We are a small country here & most of my friends are within easy travelling distance so Facebook isn’t important to me but email is useful for arranging meet ups . Instagram & Pinterest can be enjoyable time wasters - most of my Pinterest is Lurcher dogs though . You’ll remember my ancient little mobile phone , so you know I’m no techie ! But I’ve been surprised to be drawn into this ( very select ) blogging community . I don’t have masses of close friends . There’s an inner core with quite a lot of others on the periphery but I’ve always been that way . Maybe having three sisters has an effect ? Perhaps meeting your soulmate & marrying early ? Some friends drifted away after having children , which is understandable . I was more disappointed with the one who was often too busy to meet up when the grandchildren arrived . I’ve learnt that it’s pretty impossible for one friend to fulfill all your expectations . Some have exactly your taste , some are far better educated , some are really nice people , some not really but still fun , some share your interests , some not so much . Perhaps we need different friends for different things but , I agree , the ones that drag you down have to go . I love a shared sense of humour & we seemed to have that , it was like meeting an old friend - A Brief Encounter in Bakewell :)
    Wendy in York

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    1. Funny... I look at friends pretty much the same way you do. In fact Stu and I were talking about that just the other day. How some of my friends share certain interests but not others. There are the booky friends, the shoppy/clothes/fashion friends, the just having fun friends. Then there are the friends with whom I still talk about work ... well... they are usually much younger than me, and mostly now I'm listening and offering support or advice. Gad... I kind of enjoy playing the "elder statesman." ha.
      I don't actually have many friends that are my age. That's why I love all the contacts I've made through the blog. Especially the ones with a sense of humour:)

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  5. My dad was in the Coast Guard while I was growing up, and we moved all over the country from Alabama to Alaska. I have been able to reconnect with friends that I have not seen since my childhood because of Facebook. I think it is pretty dang awesome :)

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  6. I've found much the same situation with Social Media and friendship as you have. Used judiciously, it's been such a boon for someone who's made a few moves. . . . Sure, those old-school long phone chats were often (as we remember them, at least) more satisfying, gave more room for deeper or broader exchanges, definitely more intimate.. . but I can't imagine finding the time for those now (not to mention how much poorer my hearing has become ;-) I like the immediacy of a text; I think there's considerable room for expression in an email; and I love a good Facebook Group event/invitation for sheer efficiency. I think it's really important to augment social media whenever possible with IRL meet-ups and just generally get out there and meet people physically as much as we can to keep those social muscles in good fit. And at the moment, I'm trying to walk that talk, trying to make sure I'll have a decent social network, beyond family, in my new neighbourhood/city, even as Social Media makes it much easier than I'd imagined to stay in touch with friends in the old.

    And of course it's been so much friend to meet in person, the new friends I've made online -- thanks for posting that pic again, such a good day that was!

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    1. Um. . . I must have meant "so much fun to meet in person". . . . Sorry. . .

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    2. I love e-mail too... I find I can write much more like I speak than handwriting, which I now find very constraining. Maybe all those repetitive essay comments over the years? If I didn't pedal my exercise bike so much, I'd probably waste a lot more time on social media. But it allows me to check Twitter and IG, and add to my Pinterest boards so easily while actually achieving something.

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  7. Though there are things that drive me crazy about social media, especially Facebook, I value it for the same reasons that you describe. Through Facebook, I have reconnected with my best friend from high school as well as others from my past and I've been able to continue contact with people who became dear to me during our teaching stints in Asia. Like you, I also use it to keep up with and make plans with friends closer to home and I love the connections that social media, particularly my blog, have given me with people like you who I might never meet face to face.

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    1. Me too, Elaine. Meeting so many interesting people through blogging. The rest of social media... just takes some learning to "unfollow" some people and cull lists sometimes.

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  8. I use social media with a great deal of caution as I feel it can take up a lot of time that I would rather use for real life stuff. However, I organized a large family party and my daughter's wedding using emails. Message, Facetime/Skype, instagram, pinterest all have a part to play. Facebook I avoid if possible but it and emails/message are a good way to organize stuff that will be carried through IRL. Staying in touch with friends across the miles is so much easier with the internet. Your blog and a few select others I enjoy for inspiration and ideas.

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    1. Thanks, Christy. I try to use social media once a day when I'm doing something else... like pedalling my exercise bike. Then I don't actually "waste" my time entirely.

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  9. Our age group has long been the fastest growing demographic on social media. Other than posting 1010ParkPlace blogs, I don't post on FB. There are way too many creepy guys lurking about who keep wanting to "Friend Me.... " Every Friday, late afternoon, my best girlfriend since high school and I FaceTime with each other. We both have a glass of wine and catch up with one another and talk about almost everything! So fun!

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    1. Yes, I read that statistic in one of the articles I read a few days ago. Interesting, isn't it?

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  10. I have absolutely no contact with people I went to school with and have never attended any reunions. What can I say ? They were a pretty crappy bunch of people.

    There is one former work colleague I keep regular contact with and visit every two-three years and that's about it.

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    1. I don't have any contact with people I went to university with, but I treasure my childhood and a few friends from high school. Former work colleagues comprise most of my current friends, actually.

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  11. Great topic to cover Sue, leading to interesting "conversations" I haven't, as yet! felt the need to set up a Facebook account. Although I'm interested in the idea that it's a useful tool to re new contacts with old school friends and work colleagues. I remember Frances commenting once that it's that bit harder as being married females so many of us have changed our surnames ... I was initially enthusiastic but it was at a time when my son and daughter were at Uni and told tales of parents who were constantly leaving embarrassing comments on their children's Facebook and although they didn't want to not "friend" me ... did I really want to be such a part of their Uni lives that I saw all that was happening via Facebook!! :) I find email a great way to keep in touch but especially Whatsapp where we have established various family and friends groups and I love that I can have a "chat" on a regular basis ... usually daily with my children, where we can share photographs as well ... a little like we would on Instagram.
    Then there's Blogs!! a whole new world, literally, that I stumbled into almost by accident when I was unwell two or three years ago. So lovely to share "conversations" with intelligent, witty and supportive women who otherwise I would never have come into contact with ... even though at certain times in my life I may have visited their towns and they mine ... We wouldn't have known! Now we can meet for coffee, lunch IRL and email in between ... It's certainly enriched my life! Funny how the younger generation in my family love teasing me about actually meeting up with people I "met" on the internet!!! as they remember being warned against this!!!
    Hope you're having a good week Sue, we're having some gorgeous sunny if somewhat chilly days, hoping to be in Bath in the next day or so!
    Rosie

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    1. I hear you. That's why my sister stayed off FB for so long. And part of the reason why I judiciously accept very few friend requests from former students. And never, ever when I was still teaching. That would have been a disaster.

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  12. This IS hard. Sooooo hard. My hat is off to you for managing this. In some ways, social media makes it easier. In other ways, I think when all we had was pen, ink, and phone -- or a face-to-face visit -- that was better.

    I did a good job of staying in touch with college friends, really great friends, for about 25 years as we spread across the US (and a few overseas). But the past 10 years or so have been rougher, largely because "life circumstances" changed (for me) but not so much for them. And when circumstances change really dramatically (divorce, job loss, money), it is hard to sometimes to bridge the inevitable gaps that tend to arise.

    That said, there are so many delightful people that I have encountered in the "ether" in these past same (nearly) 10 years, with none of the past coloring impressions or judgments, that a whole other world of fascinating and loving people is opened up. There, too, it can be a challenge to maintain connections, but indeed, it is the human connection that is most sweet in life.

    xo

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    1. I must say that I do not use social media in the way that every article tells bloggers to use it. I rarely post multiple times a day. I tried an automated posting ap but hated it. Besides, once the free trial had expired, I didn't want to spend money to be able to post links to my blog. I only try to mange things so they work for me...and if that's not "optimal" for my blog, then so be it.

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  13. Social media is a wonderful thing,used wisely. I couldn't find such a wonderful circle of people if there were no blogs like this. It was lovely to meet Frances and to continue the conversation-where digital meets real :-). It was wonderful when we,through you,have met Rosie and Wendy -so,let's hope for more possibilities like this
    I've never left the city where I was born-almost all my friends IRL are here (or come to visit),so we meet quite regulary. I prefer texting,mail or Viber for arrangements,only sometimes we phone-when you are a couple of miles apart,better to go for a drink or coffee and talk,no?
    We have a couple of Viber groups for sharing photos or invitations (although once it has shared- by mistake -all the photos from one of my masquerade dinner to almost all my contacts-I was geisha, if you ask). But,I live in a small country-it would be quite different if conditions (and distances) were different.
    Dottoressa

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    1. I've never heard of Viper. Is it a sharing platform?

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    2. It is Viber- it is application for Windows and it enables for users to send free texts and free calls worldwide(oh,yes,you have Apple,don't you? It must be a reason),something like Whatsapp
      It saved me, when my son was studying,working or travelling abroad,with free calls (and camera included)-I forget to mention it
      From this year,all the calls (and texts) in EU are charged like domestic calls,no matter which country are you calling. It was very,very expensive for us before to call UK f.e. (or even to take calls from Croatia,when I was abroad)
      D.

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  14. Hey Sue
    Did you get my reply? It doesn't show. I tried twice.
    Anyhow....I am that Robin! Shiniest Star!! ;)

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    1. I didn't get it. Thanks for persisting. Sometimes Blogger just eats comments... not sure why.

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All comments, ideas, commiserations, questions, complaints... are most welcome.