What to do when you don’t hear from a ‘virtual’ friend
We are more than a year into the pandemic that is Covid19, and sentenced to being housebound for months, many of us socialised virtually. Talking to friends through DM chats or using our screens and smart speakers to both see and hear friends and family from whom we were socially distanced filled a gap.
But what to do if you ONLY know your friend through social media and they go quiet, what do you do to find out how they are, if they are have caught the virus or become unwell in another way?
Some people do not use their real names on social media – Penguin44 or Book_crazy (fake examples). How do you check on them when all you have is their pseudonym, and your regular conversations with the person suddenly stop: everything goes quiet?
This has happened to me 3 times since the pandemic and it’s pretty worrying. Each time it happened, I tried every avenue through which I had ever communicated with my virutal friend (e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp). When I received no response I had to cast my net wider still – begging information from others who might know the missing person as well as or better than me. I shrugged on my Miss Marple cardi and twinned it with some creepy stalker tendencies and pumped their other friends and social media home pages for information.
The first friend who went silent, I’ll call Buzz. When I tracked him down it turned out that he had indeed contracted Covid19 – someone in his family worked in a hospital. Eventually Buzz felt well enough to answer e-mails and replied to me that he was recovering – which was a huge relief, although the poor guy seems to be suffering long covid, because he’s still not up to full energy.
Going AWOL at the same time as Buzz was another good friend I’ll call Meredith. I didn’t push quite so hard with e-mails to Meredith, because she had previously told me that social media sometimes overwhelmed her and so her response was to leave it alone for a while. Eventually I heard, through a mutual friend, that Meredith was fine. I assume she has cut a lot of her previous ties with virtual friends to maintain good mental health. It’s a shame to lose contact with her, but she must do what is best for her survival.
A more recent concern has been my transatlantic friend Hal, who I value greatly. One minute he was posting pictures and cheeky tweets, next minute silence. It was so out of character for Hal that others he knew slid into my DMs to ask if I knew where he had gone and was he ok?
I know Hal’s real name so I had the advantage of using 2 different e-mails to try contacting him, but the silence went on a long time. I looked back to when we had last spoken: I had been suggesting a writing prompt to him and he said “maybe later, I’m very busy at the moment.”
I wanted the reason for Hal’s silence to be that he was too busy to speak to me, or that he was visiting family without such good internet connection as when he was at home. I invented innocuous reasons why he’d gone incommunicado.
Unfortunately I discovered that Hal had been taken seriously ill. He’d been admitted to hospital and was surrounded by family but they were keeping things private. As he began to recover I assumed he was not yet well enough to use a tablet or other technology to chat with friends. I know I struggle to remember all my different logins and passwords, so I cant think how I’d manage if my health took such a sideswipe. That’s when I began to send him get well cards & cheery letters, thinking perhaps someone could read them to him, and they might boost his morale.
Despite the dire news, I gleaned small comfort from having the facts about why he was off line. Thank goodness I knew someone who had been trusted with his mobile phone number so they were up-dated and could pass messages to Hal’s friends.
Now from his FB account, I can see he is making gradual, but steady progress. He is working towards regaining the range of movement he lost. Hal sent me a message of emojis in the other day. A tiny thing like that made my heart soar.
My friends are very important to me, especially the close ones in whom I confide and who know about my writing and my pen name. I like to support and cheerlead them and believe that they, likewise, have my back.
Lets continue to be kind to one another, keep in touch and hopefully, now that the vaccines are rolling out to all age groups, we can look forward to seeing those friends (if they live within reach) in person very soon!