Gosh y’all, I couldn’t be more excited to host the incredible Megan Tietz from SortaCrunchy today! She has inspired me in so many ways. I asked her to share with us today about something that has become very real in my life the last year – online friendships. Enjoy her post and don’t miss the giveaway of her BRAND NEW book at the end!!
By: Megan Tietz
At first, I was just a lurker.
I lurked on message boards for Weight Watchers and fans of The Bachelor and people who love cats. I loved reading the witty banter as it played out amongst the members of these discussion forums. I found myself sometimes laughing, sometimes in tears, but always interested in these friendships that formed in spaces where words were written instead of spoken.
In May of 2004, my shaking hands held a positive pregnancy test. My husband and I had been trying (albeit a little half-heartedly) for nine months. I had seen so many negative results that I think I started at that first positive test for an hour. When my mind finally focused on the reality of the situation, I raced to my computer and within five minutes, I found myself nervously treading the boards of a major parenting site.
We gathered by Estimated Due Date, and weeks before a doctor would confirm my pregnancy, I estimated that I was due in mid-January 2005. From my first click on that message board, I found myself completely sucked in. I was no longer a lurker, I was an active member of a large community of women joined by one single thread of shared interest – we would go through our pregnancies together.
As you might imagine, we mourned alongside those who lost the babies that brought them to that parenting forum. We prayed over those born frighteningly early – some survived and some did not. For many of us, our January due dates delivered brand new babies into our arms. And when we began sharing pictures of our sweet ones, a few voiced concerns about the very public nature of our gathering place, and so nearly 100 of us moved to a private message board – and that move, in a very real way, changed my life.
We talked about anything and everything under the sun in our private sanctuary on the web. Marriage problems, parenting concerns, what to fix for dinner that night … It was like a virtual coffee klatch where the conversation was often funny and always vibrant.
After a while, I noticed that I found myself nodding along with and agreeing to most everything that one of the other members shared. In everything from politics to faith to parenting to TV shows, I would agree with what she had said. In fact, it became something of a joke how often my response to a conversation thread would be “Ditto what Laura said!”
Message board posts turned to private emails. Private emails led to long phone calls. Through the magic of the internet, I had found an incredible friend, a kindred spirit who grew to be one of my closest, dearest friends years (and years!) before we were ever in the same breathing space. Laura and I seemed to be on parallel paths, and as we confided in each other more of our earliest experiences in parenting, it was like hearing my own story spoken in precise detail by someone else.
We spent a lot of time talking about all that we had wished we had known, all that we wished someone had told us in those earliest days of motherhood. And somehow, in the midst of those conversations, God began to grow in us a passion for a message that we ourselves had so longed to hear, a message of freedom and hope and inspiration for other new parents. In 2008, three years after we met on a message board and three years before we would meet in the flesh, Laura and I began writing a book together.
And as we began to share our vision and hope and dream for our book, we found ourselves answering the same question over and over: “Now, how do you two know each other?” It’s a question to be expected, of course, but I have to admit at first I felt a little shy in answering. We met, uh, online? For the first time, I had very real empathy for couples whose matchmaking stemmed from mouse clicks and keyboard taps rather than in blind dates and singles trips.
Some are puzzled by the close friendship Laura and I formed, miles away from each other and years before meeting face-to-face. Others, though, completely understand it because so many people are discovering that physical proximity and tangible presence are no longer requirements on which a friendship must be built!
What is the appeal of virtual friendships? I have to think that its remarkably similar to the appeal our parents and grandparents found in writing to pen pals. There is something precious and powerful about the written word. There is a certain intimacy in reading the words of another, and there is a sense of permanence in reading as opposed to hearing. Words can be read and re-read, thought about and lingered on and solidified. This is, of course, both good and bad, but in the realm of friendship, getting to know one another through our words offers us all the chance to speak from a safe place that which we might not have the boldness to utter from our mouths.
The picture above was taken at the end of an incredible weekend Laura and I got to spend together with our families here in my home. This was taken last fall, our first meeting a full six years after Laura and I first met online. And it was just as natural and easy as it would have been to invite my best friend from high school to spend time with us at home. Meeting a long-time online friend brings with it great anticipation and not just a little nervousness. And sure, sometimes people are a little different than the online persona they have built, but I have not once been disappointed after meeting in the flesh a person with whom my heart has connected in the online realm.
Meeting “in real life” (that’s such a funny phrase, isn’t it? My online life is just as real as my offline life) is a treasure and a treat, and yet I have to confess that some of my very best friends are people I’ve never even shared a phone call with. Via blog posts and comments, Facebook discussions and emails, my heart has grown impossibly and wonderfully intertwined with a tribe of friends who have met some of my deepest relationship needs. These sweet friends have cheered me on, listened to me vent, lit a fire under me, and I’ve never seen their eyes twinkle when they smile (though I imagine it often).
In a world where we can tweet at celebrities on Twitter, politely harass our politicians on Facebook, and share our genuine admiration of our favorite author in a comment on her blog, it seems that boundaries that once seemed so firm are now being dismantled, brick-by-brick. Relationships of all varieties are slowly evolving, and I am hooting and hollering in applause for this beautiful change. I can’t imagine my life without my beloved invisible friends.
And so, in a few short days, Laura and I will release our book into the world, the message that sprang from a message board and the friendship that was formed there. I’m so glad I found the courage to be more than just a lurker.
For six years, Megan Tietz has written about faith, family, and a life more natural at SortaCrunchy. She is the co-author of Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year. When she’s not checking in on her invisible friends, she’s hanging out with her two brown-eyed daughters and handsome husband in their home on the plains of western Oklahoma.
- PRIZE: A Copy of Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year by Megan Tietz and Laura Oyer
- TO ENTER: Subscribe to Every Breath I Take and comment below telling me how you do (NEW subscribers welcome!). Leave a separate comment for EACH way you connect with me – email (just click subscribe to new posts via email when you are commenting) or reader subscriber, Facebook fan, Twitter follower and/or weekly newsletter subscriber (Email email@example.com to sign up). That’s right, if you’re a super fan – you could get as many FOUR entries, but only if you leave four separate comments!
- BONUS QUESTION: … Do you have any online friendships? Tell Megan and I about them with comment about how you subscribe.
- GIVEAWAY CLOSES: Wednesday, March 28st at 11:59pm EDT
- NUMBER OF WINNERS: THREE! (I’ll use Random.Org to choose the three winners.)
- PRIZE SHIPS: The United States, the first week of April
GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED! Congrats to the winners (selected using random.org): Comment #28 (Kimberly), Comment #8 (Becca S), Comment #40 (Megan H)! Winners check your email inbox for details!
Note: I wasn’t paid or perked for this giveaway. I just think this book is going to be so powerful, and I want to thank (or welcome) members of the Every Breath I Take community!