It’s been a funny old week on social media. First of all we had the tragic suicide of the beautiful Caroline Flack. It’s a cliché to say that the loss of her life is senseless but it absolutely is. I’m so sorry for her friends and family who will also be grieving in the public eye – the worst imaginable place for private distress.
Facebook, Twitter & Instagram et al exploded with a million cries of ‘Be Kind’ and ‘You don’t know what anyone else is going through’ etc etc etc. All true, for maybe about 2 days, before normal service was resumed. Back to Katie Price whose house is apparently a bit mucky, the ungrateful royals who are emigrating blah blah…I honestly have no idea why people seek to be famous when it is clearly a horrible place!
In the midst of all this, it became apparent that some of my friends were on the wrong end of social media bullying tactics themselves. I’ve been on the receiving end myself in the last few months and it’s horrible & unacceptable. The ‘unfriend’ button is, ironically, your friend.
And yet, even I despaired, I love social media – I love the power of the written word, the reach of friendship across huge distances, the immediacy of contact, the laughs, the joys…It’s a wonderful, multi-coloured and fragrant world out there and yet, it’s all at our fingertips, fast and furious, exciting and intimate.
I have made and maintained many friendships over the net, one way or another. I am, by nature, a communicator. I’m friendly and curious, interested and sociable. Social media fulfills my needs for news and gossip, and plain old keeping in touch. Hoorah!
And yet, even when it’s wonderful and not behaving badly, it’s just never going to be anything more than a substitute for personal contact. It might help combat loneliness but it isn’t a cure. The personal, in-person touch is where it’s at. For me, at least.
I was reminded today of just how important physical touch is. Obviously, I’m talking about touch which has mutual consent not uninvited groping or violence… As humans, most of us need the comfort afforded by a hand squeeze, or a hug or even a casual pat on the arm. There’s tons of evidence about the therapeutic benefits of touch between patients and carers, parents and children, in every loving or caring relationship…
Of course, context and timing are crucial – we don’t want any misunderstandings or embarrassments, or worse…
Today, I helped care for an elderly man undergoing a personal procedure. He needed help standing up and with turning / rolling onto his side. He had carers attending to his physical needs and was accompanied by a lovely young man who was very efficient and obviously very kind.
It took 3 of us to move the old fella, who’d had a stroke some time ago, from the procedure table back into his wheelchair. Whilst my lovely colleagues pulled his underpants and trousers up, and positioned the chair, I held him upright and steady.
I had my arms on his shoulders and our faces were only inches apart. We looked at each other and in the moment that our eyes met, I saw a man who needed comfort.
“Would you like a hug?” I asked.
Whilst his shirt was being tucked in and his jumper straightened, I gave him a proper hug with the sides of our heads gently resting against each other. It only lasted a few seconds but it was pure magic.
“Was that okay?”
“Oh yes, it was lovely. I haven’t had a hug like that for years.”
There’s a place for social media in our world. But it’s not real life. It can be helpful and constructive but it can also wound and frighten. Hugs are way better. And they’re still free. I’m an old hippy at heart. Love conquers all ❤