Surprised by Social Media

Two meaningful moments.

Last September, I bought my first smartphone. The next day, I flew home to Ottawa because my father had been moved into a hospice and the doctors said he wouldn’t have long. 

I bought the phone because my middle child was starting at a new school, and I’d heard that the other parents in his new class communicated with each other using WhatsApp. I thought if I signed up, it would help him make connections and, hopefully, friends. Until then, my phone has been very basic – no Internet, no pictures, no emojis – just texts and calls. WhatsApp, with its ever-unravelling open conversation, was entirely new to me, but I’ve never been averse to learning new things. A slow adopter, perhaps, but not quite a Luddite.

And then on the first day of school, the call came from home with news about my dad. With no notice and a full September schedule, it wasn’t possible for all of us to go. So the phone was going to keep us connected. And though I felt unsure about so many things as I got on that plane, I knew my husband was always just a phone call away and I had that phone in my pocket.

Through the difficult days that followed, we talked face-to-face on Skype in the evenings and sent messages whenever we could. It was so good to feel close to my far-away family in those days. 

What I hadn’t expected, though, was that the phone would connect me with my past as well as my present. When my dad died a few days after I arrived, I wanted to share the news with my wider community, so I took a snapshot of an old photo that hung on my parents’ wall and posted it with a note on social media. I expected condolences, but not the scale of the response. So many old friends got in touch, reaching out with messages, emails, phone calls and invitations. Friends dropped by the house with food. Others offered to drive whenever I needed it, and one even flew over from Finland to be at the funeral. I was astonished. Astonished and supported.

In the months since that post, I’ve been more connected with many of these old friends. We’ve shared and celebrated news about new jobs, new books and new babies, trips with families, new plans and old memories. 

This summer, the Spouse and I celebrated our own 17th wedding anniversary. Not a typically a big anniversary, but we like to mark milestones. It was a sunny day and the Spouse had the idea of taking a photo of the two of us holding our framed wedding photo. We looked very happy, so he posted it on Facebook and, goodness me, there were a lot of comments. Does that sound disingenuous? Maybe it does, but we really didn’t expect the outpouring of love that followed almost instantly. Standing under a tree in our garden, we were suddenly connected with friends around the world. Some friends said we hadn’t changed a bit which was both silly and kind, but so many more wrote to wish us well or offered their own memories of our wedding celebrations.

On a day of private celebration, we felt surrounded by our community.

There are so many difficulties that come with our distracted, interconnected and over-connected digital age, but these two moments bring its worth to light for me. As people who try to honour the call to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, this connection helps us live our love and share our lives together (Rom. 12:15). 


  • Katie is an Ottawa writer living in Cardiff with her spouse and three growing children. You can also find Katie on Twitter @messy_table.

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