Thursday, May 13, 2010

A serious matter

Two days ago I tiptoed around a subject and probably just left everyone who read it confused more than anything. Now you'll know why. That being said, I still want to be careful in how I approach this because it is a delicate matter.

Via the internet I've met several people who have become friends. Of course, "met" can be an imperfect term, as in some situations that does not mean any interaction except what goes on behind computers. There are readers of this blog that I "know" no more than from their comments, sites, and Ravelry pages. Likewise, probably for the great majority of you, that's how you "know" me. (OK, I'll drop the scare quotes now. You get the idea.)

You probably have certain perceptions about who I am that may or may not be true, and the same is true on my end. If you've read here long enough, you may be able to read between the lines if I'm in a good mood or bad mood on a particular day. You can't know for certain, but I'd bet there's a good chance you're correct.

Like I said in my original but vague post on this, the matter isn't about me, not really, but because of the serious nature of it, I feel I have a responsibility to keep things fairly general. With that out of the way, here it is.

There's someone I've known for some time via a discussion board and a social media tool but had never interacted with through e-mail, telephone calls, or face-to-face meetings. Even if I wouldn't necessarily know if I was in the same room with this person, I have no doubt that the person is real and not an internet construct.

Recently on a social media site this person posted some things that I found kind of curious. I wasn't sure how to take what I was reading. At worst I felt that the person was blowing off steam. A couple days later I realized that I hadn't seen any postings since those that planted some questions in my mind. Further investigation revealed that this person was no longer using the social media site.

Now I had a dilemma, and a distinctly modern one at that. How do you ask someone who you've never met, never communicated with in the ways mentioned above, and doesn't live near you if that person is suicidal?

This is what I was wrestling with two nights ago. I did have an e-mail address through people we know in common, so getting in contact was not a problem. While I hesitated to send a message, by the time I had one written I felt a lot more certain that my gut instinct was correct. So I pressed send and waited, somewhat with frayed nerves, for a response.

About fifteen hours later, one arrived. My impression was correct. Whether that person's feelings from a few days ago still persisted was unclear to me. I responded soon thereafter and offered to listen if this person desired. It's been more than a day, and I haven't heard back. Maybe I will eventually, maybe I won't.

In this particular instance, what's worse: knowing that I was right and not being able to do anything or discovering that I was wrong? If the latter were true, at worst I'd maybe have some embarrassment and offended someone. But I was correct and potentially just have the confirmation to show for it. That's a helpless spot to be in.

I don't write this for a pat on the back, for an acknowledgment of a job well done. If anything, I probably should have reacted faster than I did. The reason I write about this is that it is a modern life dilemma created by communication technologies at our fingertips on practically any habitable point on the planet. How much do you know someone when you've never actually met them? What a wonderful and exasperating thing this small but expansive new world this can be.

Labels: , ,


At 9:40 PM, Blogger Karen said...

Oh goodness. I hope that the person in question is ok and accepts help so they can get through this alright.

You bring up a very good point. What to do when someone you 'know' online is having a difficult time.

I don't post often, but I do read. I hope you continue to heal from the accident injury.

At 11:20 PM, Blogger the secret knitter said...

Thanks. It's a tough spot to be in, but I do know some people in common who may be better suited to step in. Otherwise I wouldn't know where to go from here.

I hesitated to post this but feel that it is something which anyone active online might encounter and be similarly confused by. The person in question is unlikely to be identified by what's here, but I'm certainly willing to pull it down if I feel it may be inappropriate at some point.

As for me, I'm mostly recovered from the car accident. It's just not been as fast as I've wanted or expected.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home