This past month and a half has been a little rocky for me. In the future, I'm sure that I will refer to it as a blip on the positive momentum of my life, but today, it still feels a little overwhelming. But the positive part of all of this is what I have learnt from my involvement in online communities: 'friends' on social networks sometimes REALLY ARE friends.
Don't listen to the naysayers who will scoff at the idea that anyone can find intimacy through their online connections. I've known more than one social network addict that has received ample support, including late night phonecalls, offers of dinners, shoulders to cry on and generally helpful feedback when feeling blue, angry or otherwise down in the dumps. One of these social network addicts is me. The outpouring of support from my friends on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and this blog has been overwhelming. Of course, many of my friends are people I already knew offline or have met in person since meeting online. But I also have a good number of friends I have never met in person, but where incredibly supportive and helpful when I really felt alone.
And, even more heartening is the fact that my messy emotional tweeting, blogging, facebooking and Flickring has brought me closer to people in general. Sure, there may be some that were turned off or felt uncomfortable with the raw emotion I was putting out there, but those I heard from were incredibly touched, inspired and even impressed that I was so open and honest about my pain. I had comments like:
"Keep it up. It's helping me come to terms with my own divorce."
"My daughter just went through a sad breakup. I've been showing her your tweets to help her through. It's working."
"Your bravery makes me love your work even more."
I may have been previously apprehensive to tweet something as personal as: "We were supposed to be forever. How could he stop loving me and fall in love with her so quickly?" txt out to the world, lest I lose my professional luster, as I had previously posted that I would be maturely going forward with this breakup. And it wasn't a lie or a PR spin, but I truly didn't know how hard it would be, especially with twists in the events such as Chris starting a new relationship within weeks of the split. At that moment, I let down professional boundaries and let my fully human side splash all over the internet.
And who knows? Perhaps I have lost some professional luster to some. But for those who responded, I was someone they trusted just a little bit more. My vulnerability seemed to make me more qualified to be a community consultant. Citizen Agency had more inquiries, not fewer. I've had endless lunches, dinners, coffees, etc. with people who are all interested in working with me...and us.
I am still committed to it. I believe in and love our work too much to throw it away. That being said, we no longer hold the naive view that it is going to be an easy transition. It's going to take work and patience...and we are going to go to a couples counselor to work through this stuff (this time as a business 'couple', not romantic couple). Both of us are raw on many levels, but we will try our best not to let it hurt our work. We will also forgive one another if it does.
In the meantime, I keep reaching out to my old and new friends online who have provided me with a great outlet as well as a great deal of support. They may be icons and avatars on the screen, but there are real, breathing, feeling people behind them.