Internet support group: The low-key comfort of soul-baring on private Twitter accounts

Header by Ina Jacobe

I needed a new perspective.

That’s what I put in the bio section of the new private Twitter account I was making. Fewer and fewer things were making sense in my life, especially inside my head, and the reliably inane distraction usually provided by social media only made everything louder and more exhausting.

On this new low-key, hush-hush account, I could keep things small and close-knit. A quaint community of my favorite people and closest friends, most of whom I’d actually met online. Somehow, after over half a decade, we were able to build a level of closeness that allowed us to exchange very personal details and half-serious ILYs — despite never having been in each other’s physical presence even once.

I guess, being a writer, I’ve always understood that just words and nothing else can go a really long way, so online friendships have never been that hard to grasp for me. I’m lucky to live in an era where they can develop organically and aren’t any different from the ones that begin with small talk and a handshake. Distinctions like “real” or “virtual” don’t matter, because they’re equally valid.

These tiny connections to people in different cities, or even different countries, borne out of the smallest details like favorite bands or a tweet that made somebody else laugh, can mean everything. We came to be in each other’s lives because we loved the same things, and now we love the same things because we’re in each other’s lives.

 

We came to be in each other’s lives because we loved the same things, and now we love the same things because we’re in each other’s lives.

 

I’ve never been one to take social media super seriously, needing to deactivate to “detox” just to keep myself sane. (That’s not to say I’ve never thought of it, however.) But the private account proved to be refreshing, like going back to basics. We could speak our minds, make terrible jokes, and talk about what we had for breakfast or how our days went — things we used to make fun of because we saw them as superficial and unnecessary, but are now wonderful for really catching up with one another.

The way I see it, if my main timeline was this big, disruptive house party that was beginning to get on my nerves, then the smaller timeline was a small, soundproof room that offered all the reprieve I needed.

There was a change in how I handled my negative emotions — specifically, my depression — online, as well. I was feeling too much, then I was feeling too little or nothing at all, and I didn’t have anyone else to talk to about it. So I self-destructed quite openly and publicly, when I used to pretend or at least do a good job of making it seem like nothing fazed me. I had to, because displaying anything beyond “Hey, I’m sad” with a matching frowny face was seen as taboo.

 

If my main timeline was this big, disruptive house party that was beginning to get on my nerves, then the smaller timeline was a small, soundproof room that offered all the reprieve I needed.

 

But on our private accounts, my friends and I did away with that unspoken rule. We trust each other and we never judge each other. When we talk about heavy, unspeakable topics such as self-harm, public breakdowns, and feeling like everything was pointless and nothing was worth it — at times in pretty explicit and bleak terms, no sugarcoating except perhaps for trigger warnings — it’s never toxic, just honest.

It’s a chance for us to comfort each other, say, “I’ve been there, too,” find a little hope and clear our heads. Or, if nothing still feels okay, then we can say, “I see you,” and “You don’t deserve this, even if you think you do,” and “I know it’s hard.”

What started as an escape became a safe space and support group, and it’s helped me hold on more times than I can count. When I’m going through a period of disconnect, like I’m very far from humanity, and I haven’t left my house in days, even pixels on a phone screen spelling out “I hope you’re okay” can be as reassuring as a hand to hold or a solid presence.

I may not always see them, I may not have even met them in person at all, but they’re always with me, in my pocket, within reach. They’re there even when it’s 4 a.m. and I’m wide awake, all alone — only I’m not so alone after all. And I try to be there for them, too.

We’ve all had that sensation, where it’s as though we’re just shouting our fear and despair into a void. And sometimes, when you’re surrounded by the best people, the void shouts back.

Tags:
#self #technology

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