I have a handful of close "mom friends" in my real life, and I use the term "close" loosely. I might speak to them a few times a month, but that doesn't quite feel like I'm meeting the quota. So I tried to find a label that would define me, and my odd repulsive feelings toward being social all the time. I came to the conclusion that I'm a bit of an introvert.
I brought this notion to a few of my friends, but they weren't buying it. They said I'm too social to be an introvert. But what they don't know is that sometimes that social exterior is really, really hard for me to display. Sometimes it's forced, because I feel rude otherwise. Sometimes I just want to shut down. Sometimes I do shutdown.
So, if introverted isn't the correct term then I'm sure people in my real life will be just as surprised to hear me say that I would also define myself as shy. It's true. I'm generally guarded with women and don't always trust easily. I'm damaged and carry around a few unprocessed bags, but who doesn't? It takes me a while to feel safe, therefore, I am a bit quiet in the beginning.
But interestingly enough, I have a very active online presence. I am a blogger with a public page and following. I interact daily, sometimes hourly with my followers, and share parts of my life with them that I don't even share as regularly with people in my real life. But in my journey of blogging, I've come to find out that there are many people like me. In fact, hundreds, thousands even.
There are also thousands of Facebook groups. You can literally do anything from the comfort of your own couch and computer. You can rent movies, watch movies, start businesses, conduct business, shop till you drop and even get into a relationship if you fancy. But you can also make friends. There's a closed group for that. Well for me there was anyway.
You see, bloggers such as myself create closed groups, much of the time for a specific cause. Maybe we all write for the same blog. Maybe we all plan to attend the same conference. Maybe we all meet a need for each other somehow. But there's always a shared interest. That's how a closed group works.
In my journey, I was invited into a closed group, a tribe if you will that yes, focused much of its discussion on blogging, writing, supporting each other on how to pitch, or write for different sites, etc. But it became more than that and was created to be more than that. It was an invitation to join a group of women, and a few men who believed in nothing more than supporting one another through this crazy experience of blogging. Because let me tell you, it. is. crazy.
We have a shared interest, we write. But we are also parents, or at least trying to be. It's a place we come to commiserate, communicate, and celebrate. We build each other up and cheer each other on through the struggles of every day life, but also through wild successes. We tell each other things, many times, before we tell our own family and friends in our real lives. Not because we can't tell them, but because we feel safe in our tribe. We don't feel judged or misunderstood.
Let's be honest, we don't always feel safe with the people in our real life. We don't always feel understood. How many of you would understand if I came to you with an INTENSE frustration regarding a link from my blog malfunctioning? Or a large site that ripped off one of my memes? Would this sound important to you? Probably not. But my people get it.
There are all kinds of groups. Groups for breast feeding, children with special needs, mental health, fitness, cars, fishing, farming, popular television series, etc. There are countless groups for people to connect with one another. And you don't have to belong to just one. You can belong to as many as you want. It's awesome!
As bad of a reputation the internet, specifically social media, has gotten recently, it's an unbelievably easy way for people to connect in a healthy, appropriate and supportive way.
I can go to my tribe and vent about the fact that I can't get my toddler to eat anything besides gold fish for breakfast, and not feel like the worst mother in the world. Even my friends in real life might have something hurtful or judgmental to say about that, but not in my tribe.
I can go to my tribe and ask for advice on how to tell my husband that I'm pregnant with surprise baby #3 (I'm not by the way) to aid in bringing me AND my husband out of shock and panic.
I can go to my tribe and announce that I just received a promotion that I've waited my whole life for, and feel encouraged, supported and celebrated.
I realize that not all groups run this way, but many can and many do. As long as it's run with integrity and good intentions. Our community is constantly checking in with the group and each other in order to ensure that the values of the group are being upheld. Our amazing friend who started the group makes sure to do this every few months.
So when you hear about a closed Facebook group, it's not always about Jamberry, or lash extensions. Sometimes it's where true friendships are born and nonjudgmental support is offered. It's another place for us to make friendships, maintain friendships and enjoy friendships.
And before I convince you that this is some kind of cult, I assure you it's not. It's my safe place, and my friends' safe place that has literally saved our sanity on numerous occasions.
They GET ME! I GET THEM! And it just feels so damn good to be GOT!
Alison Chrun is a wife and mother of two who writes about parenting, relationships and self-development on her blog Appetite for Honesty. She's a mental health rehabilitation specialist who is currently receiving her Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.