Ours is now a culture in which social media play an important role. The internet has made it possible to reach out to like-minded persons around the globe, on any subject, at any hour of the day or night.
We share jokes and outrage, embarrassing and touching moments. We mourn together over public and private tragedies. We exchange recipes and voice political opinions. Sometimes wearing a disguise or the mask of anonymity, we disclose long held secrets or live out fantasies. We unburden ourselves to strangers.
Why are we drawn to do this? Why do we find this electronic avenue of communication so compelling?
It is in the nature of men and women to tell their stories. Being human, we crave human contact. We reach out in an effort both to distinguish ourselves as individuals, and find acceptance by the group. Social media have enlarged our potential audience exponentially, greatly increasing the chances we will find acceptance…by some group, at least.
To that extent, social media have facilitated connection. They have, also, however, increased risk. There are predators of all types trawling for victims. We warn our children against these, and rightly so.
The more subtle danger derives from loneliness. Young people and the victims of abuse are especially vulnerable to feelings of isolation. Nothing illustrates this better than the recent suicide by transgender teen, Joshua (“Leelah”) Alcorn .
With the technology available to overcome isolation, there appears little reason not to make use of it.
But there is a distinction between virtual friends and those we can actually see and touch. We have much less information about virtual friends, on which to base our judgment of them. We fill in the blanks based on hope, not data.
Similarly, virtual friends (even if well-intentioned) have much less information about us, on which to base their comments and advice, than flesh and blood friends…and are much less likely to help us move a couch.
We need human contact. Social media alone cannot fill that need.
 NBC News, US News, “ ‘Fix Society’: Transgender Teen Leelah Alcorn Posted Plea Before Suicide” by Tracy Connor, 12/31/14, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/fix-society-transgender-teen-leelah-alcorn-posted-plea-suicide-n277666.
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5 responses to “Human Contact”
True. Balance is a good thing. I keep in contact with real flesh and blood friends, the few I cherish, but I am most understood by others who have survived childhood trauma such as mine.
None, and I mean that, NONE, of my flesh and blood friends, nor my husband and two sons, and by far their wives, have no clue what challenges I’ve had and still have.
The choice of whether (and how much) to reveal about the abuse you suffered is, of course, yours, Patricia. We all wrestle w/ that decision. There is no right or wrong.
I would suggest only this to victims. Ask yourself why you do not want those who love you most to know.
Some women feel they are protecting their current family and friends against the abuse by keeping the secret. Some want to leave the abuse in the past, and keep their new lives “clean”. Still others fear they will be rejected, if information about the abuse gets out.
Here are a few things for victims to consider:
Children do not see the world in the same way that adults do. They hold themselves responsible for everything that happens…even the abuse inflicted on them. Because of this (and often because of outright threats by the predator), children may believe they are protecting others by keeping the secret. This thinking can carry over into adulthood. But keeping the knowledge that we were abused from others is not the same thing as protecting them against abuse.
We may want to forget the abuse, but it is very likely to have impacted our behavior (and certain to have caused us pain). If we choose to ignore the events of our past, we are unlikely to get professional help. Chances are that our pain will continue, and those around us will be impacted by behavior we cannot fully control or explain. This does not mean we will molest our children. We may though keep them at an emotional distance. We may suffer from depression, anxiety, an eating disorder or a host of other ills stemming from the abuse.
Abuse harmed us. It did not contaminate us. It did not make us radioactive. Most importantly, it did not make us undeserving of human contact. The wife of a former POW may not have experienced the torture he did. Would she not want to know that he was tortured? Even children are capable of compassion. Mommy was hurt when she was little is all they need be told.
Whether and how much to reveal about our abuse remains our choice.
Oh my friends have read my book. They all know. I’ve kept no secrets.
I also spoke up to my ‘family of origin’ a long time ago although none spoke about it in return nor said they were sorry. Not one.
My husband knew early on in our relationship, and both grown sons know, one who helped me publish the book. Not sure there’s anyone else who doesn’t know!
I’m not ashamed and I’m not protecting anyone.
It sounds as if you have grappled very capably w/ this difficult issue. I am sure your book, “Shattered” has helped many and will help many more.
Sadly, families of origin are not always supportive. They may have divided loyalties or feel guilt for not having intervened. The families we have created — our spouses and children — are more likely to be receptive. That appears to have been the case w/ you.
There are no blanket answers. I never discussed the abuse with my mother, who is now gone. In the end, it was the best decision for my particular circumstances.
I am not a model of wisdom, and do not hold myself out as such. That is the very reason this post was written. My hope is that others will benefit from my mistakes.
I wish you well in all your endeavors.
I guess I should explain that although they ‘know’ in the sense that I’ve been clear and direct, they don’t ‘know’ in the sense that they cannot really understand what they have not been through. I can tell others about PTSD, but they don’t ‘know’ what living a life with it is like. And that pertains to the all facets of the challenges I faced and still face.