It was about 12 years ago. I was on bed rest, pregnant with twin boys. I did not have a lot of visitors. I was in Hondo, Texas at the time, far away from any familiar faces and removed basically from any ones I had made. I was bored.
I was not an internet novice, I had the ability to make my way around the web, and I weaved my own little webpage somewhere on Angelfire. I don’t even remember what it was about or what the name was.
I found a few Yahoo groups that helped the time go by for a couple of days, and staring at the screen of the laptop I loved so much just wasn’t really helping move the time along.
Then, on a random search, I found Care2. Care2 is supposed to be a community of like-minded individuals with like-minded ideas for like-minded causes. I signed up, thinking why the hell not, and I began looking at the causes.
If you had ever been on Care2 in the early 2000’s, you know there were a lot of causes. It was pretty disorganized. I started following random people and I think I had like 500 friends I had never met, and I was thinking, this is kind of cool.
It consumed my time.
Joining the groups, I learned very quickly most people on there were very highly opinionated, and I also learned no matter your stance, someone was going to go for your throat. So, I started watching the people who would just pop up with the most hilarious irrelevant responses and I thought, these are my people. I went to their pages and friended them, then I joined their groups.
The groups were pretty much silliness. We had one called Anonymous R Us or something where we would say random things to each other and get the strangest responses and have no idea who was saying it. I loved that. But, we also had other groups where we posted typos we made or we put random things people deleted off their threads from their groups. I enjoyed that, too.
Eventually, though, I found out there were secret groups. I started getting invited to those and I met some amazing women and men and I can say, 12 years later, they are still my friends.
This may sound a little strange, but my real friends are on the internet.
For a few years, we had our secret group, then one hacker came along and kind of destroyed that sanctity we had. I got a MySpace page, and the first people I looked up were my Care2 friends. It was funny, a lot of us made the migration. We still talked, but it seemed more on Yahoo Messenger in big groups or short messages on that MySpace timeline.
By this time, I already had my twins, and I think I was pregnant with Lizzie. So, the span is around 3 years. I kept adding people, and I started looking for my family. I found a profile for a cousin of mine, and I saw on his wall a picture of my dad posted by a random stranger. The stranger was a young girl, she lived in Houston, and I had no idea who she was. So, I asked her. She told me she was my dad’s younger brother’s daughter. My cousin. We started messaging and we started talking about everything, and I felt like I had just found not only family, but a really close friend. We remain that way.
Then, my best friend of 23 years passed away from cancer. My daughter was 6 weeks old. My cousin and my Care2 friends and this girl from my home town that I never met were calling me and sending me messages and they gave me so much love and support when no one else really did. They were there. And, in such a sad circumstance, I was there for the stranger when her sister passed. I will never forget that 5 a.m. text. Since then, we have met, and I am blessed to have her as a friend.
These friends were there when I started my Facebook account and found all of my relatives I did not know, and all of the ones I was unaware existed. That was so exciting, in itself. Finding family on the internet. I found a cousin I had heard of, but I never met and we are very close friends now. I also met a few I was curious about and hope to never hear from again, but that is life.
These friends were there when I took my children to be evaluated for autism. They have called me, written, we have exchanged gifts, we have shared tears and laughter, and all of this with me still unsure if one of them is really a sunflower. This is over a decade of friendship.
That may be something crazy that you just cannot fathom. That may make no sense to you, but they have been there without judging me when I got married and through this divorce, listening. It feels strange to have to feel the need to justify that.
Every social media site I have been a part of, I have met wonderful people through. This even includes Twitter and YouTube. YouTube takes you into the lives of people every day, so, yes, Aces Hi and Jennifer Panda and Iamfreetobeme are real people, with real families, and I know I am blessed to know all of them.
If you ask me, though, who has been there for me the past twelve years, it is, without a doubt, my internet friends. And I don’t think I should have to justify that.