n my “Finding the ‘Abundance Mentality’ with Social Media post last month, I talked about how social media, most especially Twitter, has raised my awareness of so many worthy causes and increased my personal “abundance mentality.” In “Links for Social Good, May 2009: Breast Cancer Awareness,” I tried to keep that giving and positive spirit going in this blog. That was when JBBC of Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer commented on my blog, and my abstract good intentions quite suddenly became more personal. Through JBBC’s visit to my blog, and my subsequent reading of her blog, “a cause” I supported (mainly, due to my own mom’s diagnosis and ultimate passing from breast cancer almost twenty-five years ago), became a real person again, whose voice and journey continue to inspire me. @JBBC and I interact on Twitter now, and her story is part of my awareness and vicarious emotional experience (what I guess we call empathy).
Over the last month, I read a post somewhere that expressed concern over whether social media and online experience in general may desensitize us to others’ experiences, or possibly hurt the way we interact in person. I very much believe that technology is neither good nor bad in itself, and it’s more how and why we use technology that determines its impact. In the case of JBBC’s blog, technology connected me to an amazing person, and made me more deeply feel her story, and by extension, the stories of all those who are going through cancer treatment, or like JBBC, are survivors of that treatment, moving forward with the rest of their lives. If social media technology can isolate and desensitize us, it can certainly also powerfully connect people and help us better emphasize with each other. Through social media, I have also attended several in-person events and met people whom I would have never known otherwise—a somewhat big-deal for a natural introvert (as many writers are) and busy, working mom of three, who doesn’t have a lot of time to socialize these days.
Perhaps like most things in life, social media technology is double-edged, with balance as the key.
Enter Jennifer Bechard, also known as @Jenn1423, on Twitter. Throughout the course of this month, a persistent and cheerful voice kept sending me the occasional shoutout, about supporting the Detroit Hydrocepephalus WALK. I’m from Boston, and I had no idea what hydrocepephalus was at the time, so the fundraising effort didn’t immediately capture my attention. —But there was something about Jennifer’s avatar (the picture that’s part of her profile on Twitter) that I instantly responded to and liked. I think it was (and still is) her smile and warm brown eyes.
So, when I was looking for a topic for my “Live with Abundance” series this month, I thought of all Jennifer’s diligent efforts to raise awareness on Twitter, and that’s mostly why I decided to highlight her fundraising effort. I was also curious about the word and condition hydrocepephalus, which were totally unfamiliar to me.
Though I knew Jennifer was Co-Chair of the Detroit Hydrocepephalus WALK, I didn’t realize that Jennifer herself was suffering from hydrocepephalus, or the full extent of what that means, until I opened her moving, determined, and faith-filled story, in my e-mail.
Is there a dark side to social media? Sure, probably, and you can read about it, here. But when you read Jennifer’s story, and the stories of amazing strength, inspiration, volunteerism, and social action that I plan this “Live with Abundance” series to present, you can rest assured that social media has a bright side, too.