Sitting on the train to Graiguenamanagh last Friday evening a memory sparked and has haunted me since.
Picture this: an ordinary college girl happily embracing a course in multimedia in DCU who has lived away from home since the day after her Leaving Cert, very independent and city smart. Her timetable in the latter half of second year means her classes finish at 2pm on Wednesday afternoon. Nice! Four days of the week and time is her own. Week 1 goes by. Week 2 passes, a bit boring but we’ll have project work soon.
Week 3, Wednesday afternoon, I’m at home in my little box room facing another four-day weekend. That’s when I believe I had my first and only panic attack. I couldn’t breathe, I was hysterical. I couldn’t face the thought of another weekend pretty much by myself. Alone. Invisible to the world.
I packed a bag and quickly headed for the train station jumping on the next train home. And that’s what I did for pretty much every week for the rest of that semester. Went home, took up some part-time work for 2 days, had a day off and returned on Sunday night. It got to the stage where I started recognising others who were doing a similar or part of the same commute.
It’s a part of me that drives me nuts, that I detest. Thankfully I have improved somewhat but I still have a long way to go. I’ve got plenty of theories on why I am so and why I find it so terrifying and challenging to meet and make new friends but I also have realised that social networking has been and is fantastic for people like me.
I get annoyed when I hear people bashing social media by calling it a ‘haven for misfits and the socially awkward’ (and so on) – so what?! We’re no more awkward or odd than some of the regulars in the bar I used to work in who used to pop in for a few drinks purely for the social aspect it offered.
I’ve met and made some great friends and acquaintances through Twitter and blogging and the conversations and events that are generated by or through them. And I hope that continues into the future. Why has it been easier this way? I’m not sure if it’s the sense of anonymity, the casual and passing nature of communication online or even the ability to discover common ground and establish some kind of relationship prior to meeting? Or the feeling of being constantly ‘connected’? Or all of the above.
Whatever it is it suits this misfit.