Not long ago I used to be a member of an online forum. I say 'used to' but I'm still undecided about whether I'll go back or not. My thoughts at the moment are that I won't. I originally joined this forum in 2006, just after Jacob was born. I wasn't a regular poster though until just before getting pregnant with Esme. The forum is a breastfeeding/parenting one so it has been an invaluable support to me in my parenting journey. I ended up taking a break after I suffered my miscarriage/ectopic pregnancy as I seemed to be drawn to the pregnancy section and was finding it all too hard and emotional.
I found the forum to be incredibly supportive and felt that the people on it were there for me whenever I needed them. And I think a lot of other people on there feel this way too. However, since leaving the forum I feel like this was all a bit of an illusion. Sure, I have made a couple of good friends who I am still in contact with but the majority of the people (who I am also facebook friends with) seem to have simply forgotten all about me. No one contacts me. People post about get togethers on their facebook but I am not invited. The phrase 'out of sight out of mind' seems to ring true. I'm trying hard not to be bitter here but it's hard. These are people who I had contact with every day but yet suddenly I don't matter. because I'm not on the forum.
It's really made me realise that online community is no substitute for real community and that we really are all strangers no matter how much we can profess to care about someone. It's kind of a scary thought because there are so many people out there who use these online communities as their lifeline. People who suffer depression and mental illness. People who are the victims or abuse and violence. What is likely to happen to them when their only community is an online one? It's not like you can just go round and check on someone who you know online! People need real life friends. Friends who care about them and who can see what is going on (well, at least are more likely to see what is going on). I'm just glad I have discovered this now.