Needed: Virtual Hugs

Online friendships are a strange thing.

I don’t know what some of you look like.  And none of you know what I look like, with my current haircut (and a lot of you don’t even know that my hair is chin length right now!).  In my mind, the vast majority of you talk like you’re from Northern Michigan.  And you don’t realize that I have a rather high-pitched voice that sounds like a child’s.

We don’t see each other everyday.  None of us know the other’s life situation, in the same detail that we would, if we knew each other in “real life.”

And yet, we’re writers.  As such, we’re often more open in our writing, than in person.  There is a part of me–perhaps the most real part of me there is–that you see more here (and in e-mails) than people who know me, see in person.  We’ve shared secrets.  Many of you were with me, in very real ways, last winter and spring, when my struggles felt unbearable.  Thinking back, I remember love, and that always makes me smile.

Right now, so many of you are going through such challenges.  From my vantage point, it is so hard to know what to do.  Distance makes the simplest gesture impossible.  Often, words are just redundant, and I wish I could transcend time and space and give each of you a hug.

But since I can’t, I do what I can do.  I say the words that aren’t enough.  I give you advice that you don’t need, hoping that you’ll read the message between the lines–that you aren’t alone.  It is both an experience of helplessness, and one of love, in its pure form.

I know many of you, if not all of you, are reading this now.  And many others, who have someone else, whom you have never seen in person, who wants nothing more than to give you a hug right now.

And all I can share with you, with all of you, is this.  Don’t feel bad that people worry about you, when times are difficult.  Don’t feel like you’re “dumping” on those who care about you.

Instead, feel blessed.  Feel lucky, that people care enough to worry.  Smile, with the understanding that you are not alone.

And treasure those inadequate words, because they really a hug, in HTML form.

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31 thoughts on “Needed: Virtual Hugs

  1. Thank you, Bethany. Your words have been helpful to me when I needed it. I knew you heard the words I didn’t say and I very much appreciate our “online” friendship.

    Child-like voice? I wouldn’t have pictured you like that. 🙂

  2. Thanks, Bethany. Obviously based on my first comment (which was meant to be a reply to: “Child-like voice? I wouldn’t have pictured you like that”) your post made me think of books.

    I thought of how it’s not strange at all to feel that people we know only online are friends. Most of us who write are big readers and have felt that some books are practically friends. Think how much interactive writing is!

  3. I liked your post. I don’t know what I’d do without online “friendships”. Since I became ill, I spend an inordinate amount of time alone. I don’t get out often to make new friends and I live in a new area. Writing through what I’ve experienced and sharing has been a Godsend. Hearing others stories helps me know I’m not alone and I have found some of the nicest people. You don’t have to see a person or hear their voice to know their heart. The heart is the part of a person I look at. I’m learning to trust. I know you have a good heart. That’s all that matters and I always have a virtual hug ready. Your writing tells it all. Hugs, MH

  4. Can we make a virtual hug machine? would be so fun. Online friendships are so special to me, and I am so grateful for the connections I’ve made with people (incl you) through blogging. I think we can be there for each other without meeting. words have a lot of power, and you’ve certainly helped me heal with some of your posts. Love vs. approval was a big one for me.
    I am Icelandic, but don’t have a Scandinavian accent, more English than anything. I don’t really know what my voice sounds like to others, because I hate listening to my own voice! 🙂

    • Ah, Love vs Approval was one that I wrote when I was in the thick of things. And it’s been a struggle that’s been ongoing for me. In fact, recently (like a few days ago) I’ve made some huge strides in overcoming my approval-seeking. What I hadn’t realized was that the love (and understanding of love) that we are capable of, once we truly stop seeking validation and approval from the outside (that is, when we firmly believe–without question–that we are good and that we are enough), is amazing beyond comprehension. Keep looking within, and you’ll find it. 🙂

      Yup, you talk like a midwestern American in my head. I have one friend who uses enough British slang when he writes, that he talks with that accent in my head, and one friend who writes y’all enough that I read her e-mails with a southern drawl. But everyone else is a Michigander. LOL

      • haha! I wonder what I’d sound like as a midwestern american!

        I’ve made some great strides in the self-acceptance department recently. I am taking better care of myself, and challenging the inner critics more easily (whereas I firmly believed them before). I think this new project, and new chapter is helping me seek less approval. After all, I quit my job rather hastily, and not everyone will think it’s a good idea, but I know it’s the right decision. I’m doing this for me, something that I would have struggled with before.

        I’m so glad that you’ve made great strides too, it must feel amazing.

        The answers are indeed within 🙂 we are good, and we are enough! 🙂

  5. Online people are awesome. I feel like so many of them “get” me and vice versa. I cherish the community I’ve built this way. Especially for my profession where it’s easy to feel isolated.

    • There is an openness online, that we don’t have in real life. I’ve tried to create community free of judgement, where people don’t feel alone. As “connected” as we are, it is sad how isolated we feel.

  6. Thank you Bethany! This is lovely.
    I think our voices always sound different when we hear them say, on an answering machine or something. My response is usually ” oh! That whiney voice can’t be mine! I love that you can hit high G, as a former choir girl you should be proud, you will always get the melody! ( I am an alto and I now find I sing harmony more often than not! )
    Anyway, I love hugs. Thanks for the “virtual ” one.
    Katie

  7. A lovely sentiment, Bethany. The people we meet online are usually thinking more like we are. I actually like what I know of them better than the vast majority of real live people in my life. The online community has given me the value I just cannot get elsewhere. When I settle for whatever I get locally, I get mediocrity. These online peeps do not settle. I love that.

  8. Bethany, this post and the comments are interesting–the topic has been floating around in my mind for a while. A veteran blogger told me when I started my blog that I might be surprised what I gain and he added “not necessarily financial.” I know exactly what he means now. My little online family is something I really value.

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