A Problem with Virtual Friendships

What to do when you don’t hear from a ‘virtual’ friend

We are more than a year into the pandemic that is Covid19, and sentenced to being housebound for months, many of us socialised virtually. Talking to friends through DM chats or using our screens and smart speakers to both see and hear friends and family from whom we were socially distanced filled a gap.

But what to do if you ONLY know this friend through social media and they go quiet, what do you do to find out how they are, if they are have caught the virus or become unwell in another way?

Some people do not even use their real names on social media – Penguin44 or Book_crazy (fake examples). How do you check on them when your regular conversations suddenly stop and everything goes quiet?

This has happened to me 3 times this year and it’s pretty worrying. Each time I tried every avenue through which I had ever communicated with my virutal friend (e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp). When I received no responses I had to cast my net wider still – begging information from others who might know them as well as or better than me. I shrugged on my Miss Marple cardi and twinned that with some creepy stalker tendencies and pumped their other friends and social media home pages for information.

The first friend who went silent, I’ll call Buzz. When I tracked him down it turned out that he had indeed contracted Covid19 because someone in the family worked in a hospital. Eventually Buzz felt well enough to answer e-mails and replied to me that he was recovering – that was a huge relief, although the poor guy seems to be suffering long covid, because he’s still not up to full energy.

Going AWOL at the same time as Buzz was another good friend I’ll call Meredith. I didn’t push quite so hard with e-mails to Meredith, because she had previously told me that social media sometimes got too much for her so then she just left it alone for a while. Eventually I heard through a mutual friend that Meredith was fine, so I assume she has cut a lot of her previous ties with virtual friends to maintain good mental health. It’s a shame to lose contact with her, but she must do what is best for her survival.

A more recent concern has been a transatlantic friend who I value greatly. One minute he was posting pictures and cheeky tweets, next minute silence. It was so out of character for Harry that others slid into my DMs to ask if I knew where he had gone and if he was ok.

I know Hal’s real name so I had the advantage of 2 different e-mails I could use to try contacting him, but the silence went on a long time. I looked back to when we had last spoken: I was suggesting a writing prompt to him and he said “maybe later, I’m very busy at the moment.” Now I wanted Hal to be too busy to speak to me, or to be visiting family without such good internet connection as when he was at home. I invented innocuous reasons why he was incommunicado.

Unfortunately Hal had been taken seriously ill. He’d been admitted to hospital and was surrounded by family but not yet well enough to use a tablet or other technology to chat with friends. I struggle to remember all my different logins and passwords, don’t know how well I’d manage if my health had taken such a sideswipe. That’s when I began to send him get well cards & cheery letters, thinking perhaps someone could read them to him.

Despite the dire news, small comfort was gleaned in having the facts about why he was off line. Thank goodness I knew someone who had been trusted with his mobile phone number to keep me up-dated.

Now from FB I can see he is making gradual, but steady progress. He is working towards regaining the range of movement he lost and Hal sent me a message of emojis in the other day. A tiny thing like that made my heart soar.

My friends are very important to me, especially the close ones in whom I confide and who know about my writing and my pen name. I like to support and cheerlead them and they, likewise, have my back. Lets continue to be kind to one another, keep in touch and hopefully now that the vaccines are rolling out to all age groups we can look forward to seeing those friends who live within reach in person very soon!

You’re my best friend

Lean on Me

Mr Postman

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