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We all have Facebook friends—friends of friends who defend us on posts, people we’ve met once and years later, keep up with on the app.
But during the pandemic, I had a novel experience: I met a totally random person through a group who has become the person I talk to most on any given day. Not in a romantic way, but in a soul-sister, best friend way.
Our husbands think it’s weird that we have suddenly found a kindred spirit with whom we share everything from our deepest thoughts to the minutiae of our work exchanges. But there is something incredibly liberating about starting from the beginning and explaining the context of your life to someone who has no preconceived notions of who you are.
My new best friend and I were both a part of a private Facebook group on thought-work and feminism. The group’s goal was to provide feedback on “models,” which identified a circumstance in your life, your thoughts around the circumstance, what feelings the thought provoked, and the result of those feelings. The exercise was useful for identifying subconscious thoughts, bringing them to light, and changing them inch by inch.
One of the moderators made a post about finding a thought-work “buddy” to keep us accountable. That is where we found each other: in the comments section of a Facebook post.
We tentatively private messaged with which parts of our life we were working on improving and which thoughts were getting in the way, offering more personal details with each message. We found a lot of commonalities: we were both in our early 40s, both trying to really focus on our next steps at work, the steps that would catapult us to the next level, sorting through our identities as moms and wives and women. We were also both seriously introverted, which made messaging our preferred method of contact.
The powerful thing about our communication was the distance: explaining the ins and outs of your situation to a stranger was clarifying. She would ask questions about the way I did things with a fresh perspective. She could cheerlead my efforts as someone watching from the outside, purely and without attachment. I appreciated her—this human who had been living her life with passion and integrity, fighting her battles, striving to grow at every turn—as you would someone you read about, whose life has never intersected yours in a messy way.
Serendipitously, we only lived an hour and a half from each other. So one Sunday, we met for tea halfway between our houses. And more recently, she came to a girls’ night with my longtime friends. But our messaging relationship continues to be strong. We work through our thoughts, trade stories about our kiddos, and compare marital sleeping arrangements. She is my reference, much like a dictionary or thesaurus when I write, providing another levelheaded, thoughtful perspective on how things can be done.
I helped her wait out the drawn-out hiring process for a new position she was excited about. She helped me hone in on the mission of my new business.
More than any practical help, though, we get to experience the universality of the human experience by intimately witnessing a stranger’s journey. And that is a gift that Facebook gave me.
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