It wasn’t all that long ago that I was at university and the distance between my friends from school and I seemed huge. We grew apart and I have very few school friends left today. You could say part of that reason is because I was rubbish at staying in contact – true – but I think the distance meant we grew apart in other ways. We had less ways to stay in touch so we didn't. I made friends with people I saw regularly.
That’s not to say we lived in the dark ages, but our main way of staying in touch was email or text. Facebook was just coming into play and MSN messenger was useful – if people were online at the same time - but very few people had laptops and phones with internet access were not yet in the market.
I look at who my closest friends are now, and they are all friends I have gained as an adult. It’s true that part of that reason is because they are people I have the most in common with, but part of that comes down to social media. I am friends with people who I communicate with on common ground and do so regularly.
Even looking back at the start of Laura and my relationship – a whole 50 months a go, or just over 4 years, and things have moved quickly in that time frame. After getting together, L took off to Oz for a month, and our main form of contact was Facebook chat. We would spend hours messaging to and fro and we felt connected though she was on the other side of the world. If she emailed, it would come through to my phone so the distance seemed less.
At work we would Skype – which we once got into huge trouble for after a manager printed off an entire pack of paper worth of our conversations she had screenprinted! Seriously though, who has the time to do that!!! But it was our way of being in touch throughout the day. We now do it on our IM app (although neither of us have anywhere near as much time). Wherever we are, we’re in touch.
Then I look at Facebook – can you remember a time without Facebook, or ‘my past book’ as I sometimes think of it? It’s where all my friends from the past exist. I rarely see most of my Facebook friends, but it’s nice to see the updates and to know how people are getting on, see photos of what they look like now. It’s also my online photo album, so serves a definite purpose.
For me though, Twitter was the game changer. Laura and I share an account because individually we aren't that interesting, and realistically would not tweet much, but I love it as a form of being kept up to date. We are connected to those who we share interests with, have things in common with and who make us smile. We also get the latest news stories from around the world, and from Laura's home state. We find out about awesome London events through it, and even enforced a rule that if someone annoys/bothers us for more than 3 days, we unfollow - it’s a rule that means we enjoy it even more.
|My current phone home screen|
with all it's social media icons
But alongside the daily social media that keeps us up to date on the important, not-so important and trivial things, we have our beloved blog. We've mentioned it a few times, but we really did start this to share what we were doing with L’s ever so far away family - but what it has become, what it has changed and what it has impacted are huge and were completely unexpected.
1) Our friends – Lauren and Sarah - best friends to be precise, have come from our blog. In the last year, most parts of our lives have become integrated. We have become each other's support systems, confidants, holiday buddies and more. We text, tweet, Facebook, email and share our plans, helping each other along the way. Without social media we would have never met!
2) Then there are our other friends – virtual and those we have met in person. We love that we have different things in common with different friends, for instance:
- Similar interest blogs - these are people similar to us, not always gay, but who we get along well with as a couple
- Travel buddies - Those who have traveled or do travel just as much, if not more, than us - swapping stories is great
- Future life friends - Couples with the marriage and the babies, who we look forward to following suit
- Wedding watchers - I have lost count of the number of wedding blogs we follow – those planning to get married, those who have just gotten married, those who advise on getting married – you get the idea!
- A different perspective - probably our broadest category, but in this are blogs we find make us smile, give us something to think about or just gives us insight into a world different than ours
3) Our social circle has widened. I never thought that we would have friends that I've never met but I do – it really is about volume of contact. I feel like the virtual element provides a starting point, and common interests, that could take months to get to in the real world. If we do end up meeting bloggers or tweeters, we usually like them as much as we do online, and there is no time wasted trying to find things to talk about. In fact we are in contact with them more than older friends.
For Laura, who doesn't have the social group here of school friends that a lot of people do, its meant a way to meet people she doesn't work with, and who have similar interests to us. It's harder than you'd think to make friends these days who you didn't go to school or work with without using the internet!
4) We've found out more about the LGBTQ community that we would have if we weren't involved in blogging. Whether it's through actively seeking information or being told about information the blog has been an access portal.
5) Then there is the less important, but very nice to have benefit. We have occasionally been asked to write for other blogs – the feeling that gives is a real sense of pride. We sharing great news, our engagement springs to mind – we were so grateful for all the well wishes. Competition wins and freebies– thanks’ Nandos, Heinz and Superbreak!
|Some of the lovely comments we received on our engagement post.|
That’s the biggest impact social media has had – the way we communicate with the outside world.
Can you imagine waiting to get at your home desktop computer to check your email?
Can you imagine finding out news 3 days after it’s happened?
With easier communication comes easier interaction, and it really does make the world a smaller place. Laura’s Mum can work out where we are, what we are doing and how best to get hold of us at any time of day. Fro Idaho. Crazy! Watching the final of Survivor the other day the presenter reflected ‘can you imagine watching TV and only being able to share your opinion with those sat next you instead of the entire world?!’ Well, no, Jeff Probst, we can't!
We no longer just watch, listen, text, talk or call we interact, we multitask, we share and it’s with a world far bigger than I could have ever imagined. And I love it!!!