Following and Friending

Robin Botie of ithaca, New York, photoshops her drawing of tesselation puppies with a photograph of pond algae.A book I once read began with a proposal – what if all the lonely people in New York City were to open their windows at 11PM and howl into the night sky? To me this is the image of Facebook and Twitter, only, there the whole world is howling, and people from all over find and follow one another. The cacophony seeps into everyone’s emailboxes as each hollering is echoed and replied to, over and over. A recent yowling of my own on Facebook received a massive 90 likes. Lots of comments. I joyfully followed and friended and thanked as many fellow yowlers as I could.

My daughter blogged when she got cancer in 2008. Back then I thought blogging was some sort of techie cult activity; I didn’t dare visit her site. But people followed her and she felt supported. Following her death, I tried to follow her lead, first venturing into Facebook, eventually journeying on to Twitter and Pinterest. I set up my own website and blog. I followed all the rules, followed people’s advice, and followed my heart – and still ended up crying alone in the car every day. In a daze, I followed my friends who dragged me out of the house. I followed my dead daughter to Australia. I followed her dog into the woods, over streambeds, and through grassy fields.

These days I follow people in online groups: communities around child loss, cancer, gratitude, hiking, food, signs from departed loved ones. In the process of all this following, I apologize if I’ve become a nuisance, nagging you to “like” my new Facebook writer page, pestering you to subscribe to my blog. There are differences between followers and friends, I’ve learned. As an author building a platform, I value them both.

“All your hard work will soon be paid off,” reads the Chinese cookie-fortune taped onto my computer. It is paying off. The “friends” I’m finding by increasing my social media presence make me laugh. They make me cry. Mostly, they make me feel that I am not alone. In the middle of the night I tweet to a bloke in England. I chat with a mum in Australia. During my days dashing around Ithaca I smile, embarrassed, but delighted to be stopped.
“I loved your last blog,” said a woman at the gym, who I know only from Facebook.
“We’re “friends,” said a stranger in a restaurant, “on Facebook.”


Where do you find new friends? How does the internet add value to your life?

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6 thoughts on “Following and Friending

  1. susanb

    Coolio Robin, howling at the moon, did you create the image? I like. Cacophony of chittering chipmunks and chattering birds included with the howlers too. Our forest of friends who support and share and i say more in my blog than I do in person. It’s easier and no one sees the tears, which are expected but us bereaved parents have massive cracks in our heartss so we have waterfalls.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I had a “waterfall” this evening, Susan. At a bereaved parents meeting where I was supposed to bring an object of my daughter’s. I’d completely forgotten. And I felt like I’d failed Marika, blew an opportunity to share her, her poems, or one of her songs. I wasn’t even wearing any of her clothing, a rare day. So I cracked. Erupted.
      Anyway, I took one of my old drawings of puppy tesselations and made a negative of it, and then overlaid a photo of green algae over it. I think I’ll try more of this – combining drawings and photos. Thanks for liking my howlers.

  2. Joann Giovannone (Jo)

    Robin, I’m not good at “finding” friends on Facebook (always come up with no one by that name 🙂 ) so if you’d like to friend me a request, we can locate each other that way. I’m on Facebook as Joann Weber Giovannone Hometown: Schuylerville, NY I do still read your Monday blogs and enjoy them, please don’t give up! Jo

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I’m so excited about trying this, Joann. I’m not particularly great at this stuff either but I love a challenge and this one seems doable. Then I can feel good about accomplishing a new skill as well as finding another way to keep tabs on you. And, maybe I’ll even send you a link so you can “like” my new writer’s page on FB. We need to keep ourselves engaged and challenged. So thanks for this opportunity. Cheers also for reading my blogs. I’m not giving up. I love it too much. Hugs!

  3. Elaine Mansfield

    This is in the air, Robin. Our positive supportive on-line friends and interactions. It became true for me because I could search those sad words #grief and #widow and find others who had been there and survived. Later, these and others became people interested in my writing and I became the one who had been there and survived. It helps so much to howl at the moon and to each other and connect in our grief-adverse world. Thank you.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Elaine, I’m wondering about searching hashtagged words. Will try that – on FB? on Twitter? I’m very experienced in howling to the moon and to my BFFs but it takes a lot of guts to reach out into cyberspace. I have to take deep breaths and put on my Big Girl hat in order to find and connect with online peeps. But it is so gratifying when I do. Thank YOU for showing me the way so often.


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