I love my real-life filing cabinet. I know, exciting stuff. Admittedly I’m a bit rubbish at getting round to actually filling the cabinet – the post piles up on the pile marked ‘filing’ (there is no pile marked ‘filing’, it’s just a pile) and I’ll have an admin binge and then do nothing until the next time I can’t see my son over the unsteady mountain of paper on the kitchen table.
IF I opened my lovely filing cabinet to a little party of friends waving flags and drinking bubbly or tea, depending on the time of day, I imagine I’d clear my table more often. Until any miniature friends volunteer for that job though I’m left with just a filing cabinet.
Right where’s this going? Ah yes…I don’t actually keep anyone locked in any part of my house, let alone the filing cabinet but I do have a very effective friend filing system in my head. I imagine I’m not unusual in having lots of different categories of friends? There are many disparate parts to all our lives that lead to different friendship groups – old friends, school friends, uni friends, work friends, local friends, bookgroup friends, cricket friends, parent friends…I once had train friends, they were fun.
And recently I’ve added a new category, not a category I thought would ever apply to me – online friends. Yes, conjuring up images of IT fanatics and disturbed middle-aged men in basements, I am unbelievably the proud safeguarder of some new friendships in this previously unchartered friend category.
I was lucky to make some online friends in the relatively early days of my blogging meanderings and under a heady mix of coding advice, linky wisdom, Twitter bafflement and general cynicism a friendship was formed. More recently I stumbled upon (that’s not supposed to be a webby pun, who knew that was actually a thing!?) #Tribalchat – a weekly Twitter chat held on a Tuesday evening 8pm – 9pm. The chat and the accompanying daily Twitter DM was set up and is powered by the lovely Katie at Mummy in a Tutu.
In both of these situations I’ve learnt a few things:
Firstly that words are powerful. In blogging we are, to some degree, conveying a part of our personalities. A very real bit of us comes out onto the paper in our voice and tone…it might not be the bit that comes out when we speak but it doesn’t make it any less valid. And, unless anyone is lying, the content of our writing is us too…little snapshots, however presented, into our lives.
That you’ve got to be trusting as well as applying a relative degree of caution whatever the friendship category – I’m not saying we should all go around being suspicious of potential good friends, I actually think the opposite…I’m much more inclined to embrace people (figuratively not physically!). But even so, no one is an entirely open book…it takes a lot of shared experiences to bond and build a fully trusting relationship and this applies whatever the category. So if 30-something blogger Rosie with twins turns out to be 52 year old Frank, no children, then certainly I would be surprised and disappointed (and possibly suggest Frank gets an impersonation medal…I believe it’s called a criminal record) but devastated? Not yet.
That friendships based on the written word are not new – I think we imagine that this is a phenomenon of an online world, and of course there’s some truth in that regarding the ease and proliferation of making and keeping friendships via Internet, whatsapp etc. But, have you read 84 Charing Cross Road?…a lifetime’s friendship built on the overseas correspondence between a bookshop and a customer.
That online friends can be real friends, whether or not you’ve met them face to face. My online friends are entertaining, they offer endless cups of wisdom, not tea, and great big accompaniments of support, not cake. Just because they’ve never seen my face, they know me as far as a lot of people can say they know me.
This has all particularly been brought into view with their enthusiastic cheerleading capabilities and unbelievably generous support for my unexpected BiBs award shortlisting. Yes, I know I’m like a dog with a bone with that (and I fear I’m going to have to be all week, I’m sorry brace yourselves) but really that’s the catalyst for writing this post. These are friends and peers who have put aside whatever personal disappointment they felt not being on the shortlist and instead put their energy into making it special for someone else. I think that’s pretty amazing and while I’m courting their crossness by rebelling against their ‘tell your friends, use the press release and get yourself out there’ advice I am no less startled by, and appreciative of, their generosity.
In fact I may have to print out and stick on my fridge the message stream that met me when I turned my phone on just a teeny tiny bit late on the morning the Britmums BiBs awards shortlist was announced. In my defence I wasn’t expecting to be on a list of any sort that day and would have looked at some point during the day, honest…anyway it went a little bit like this: LUCY! Where is she? She’s normally up by now. Maybe she’s having a lie-in… Maybe she’s seen the list and fainted… Should we call an ambulance!? I’ve got to go, but I want to wait to hear her reaction…where is she!? WAKE THE F*** UP LUCY!
So my conclusion…well blogging has brought lots of things into my life such as recipe, craft and activity ideas, inspiration for days out, new ways of looking at parenting and identity and – the most unexpected and lovely perk of all – friends. So if you’re new to blogging my advice would be to reach out a little – maybe head to a blogging event or conference, join a Twitter chat (how about Tribalchat!?), get commenting on your favourite blogs…you may find you’ll need to add a new category to your own friends filing cabinet.
And finally, the obligatory ask – if you’re still considering your options regarding the BiBs, I’m on the shortlist for Readers’ Choice and you can find my post about it here.