If you visit here very often, you've probably guessed that I'm something of an introvert, happy with just me, myself, and I for company. I reach out to people most often through words on this space, and recently, on that most ubiquitous of social networks, Facebook. It takes an effort for me to initiate social contact, and so, in a life that sometimes seems overloaded with things requiring effort, I allow my social life to languish. Yesterday was a marked change in that usualness, a day brim full with unexpected social networking. Early in the day, I met two long-time blogging friends for lunch. In the five years that I've been blogging, this was the first time I had ever met any member of that particular network face-to-face. It was such a delight, to hear the real voices of these two women whose writerly voices have whispered in my ear so often. We talked about blogging, how we came to it, why we continue with it (or not). We talked about life in general, our own lives in particular. We finished each other's sentences on occasion, and exclaimed in resounding recognition of each other's feelings. "Me too!" and "Yes, I know!" were frequently heard throughout the conversation.
And then last night two friends from church came to the house, friends who have just returned from China where they picked the place they will live for the next three years. I wrote about them here, this adventure on which they are about to embark, and how filled with awe I am at the thought of making such a major change in lifestyle at our age. Although I'm saddened by their departure from our little circle of friends, I am emboldened by their courage and their willingness to embrace a new challenge. Their social network is about to be turned completely on its head, and will doubtless expand in a myriad of unimaginable ways.
At lunch yesterday, we talked a bit about one's circle of friends, and how the social network tends to shrink with the years. I've seen that happen with my mother, how as she has lost one friend and relative after another, she's had no means of replacing them, so her entire social life revolves around us and one neighbor. The older we get, the greater the effort it is to keep the network healthy and vibrant.
But I'm beginning to realize how important it is to make that effort, especially for people whose family is miniscule. While it's easy for an introvert like me to stay inside the safe shell of my comfort zone, it can also be lonely, a loneliness that I don't always recognize, but which may manifest itself in other ways.
It's not always easy to make new relationships. The internet provides one avenue down which to explore, a place to meet other like minded people from all over the world. It's a miraculous thing - but it's also a little bit dangerous, especially for someone who finds it easier to remain tucked away in a little cubbyhole. Because as fascinating and easy as it is to develop a relationship of sorts online, it is ever so much more satisfying to share that relationship through personal contact. I realized that yesterday afternoon, communing with my friends over Sacher torte and big mugs of coffee, and last night, sipping wine and looking at photos of some other friends new home in China.
Today, I'm back in my easy chair, surfing the internet, Magic and Molly my only companions. But it's good to know my social network extends beyond the realm of this room and this computer screen, and into the wider world where it belongs.
How about you? What's your social network like?