Not all social networks are bad for you: we already explored this topic a while ago in an article about a German messaging app that offers psychological support to young people who are struggling.
Generally speaking, we could claim that social networks aren’t harmful, but, on the contrary, they fulfill their true purpose when they are used to serve human needs and don’t play into our vanity or selfishness.
Today we point to yet another example that shows how social networks can support – and not hinder –people’s relationality: the "social community."
These are groups that come about often on social networks, uniting people who are far from each other and are dealing with the same problem, who have the same interests, who share the similar goals, etc.
The magical power of social network groups
Social networks are a blessing when they allow us to be together with those who are distant from us but have similar needs.
Since we are naturally relational beings, groups (whether real or virtual), when born from a deep sense of solidarity, have the extraordinary power of alleviating pain, of consoling, and of offering insights which help us to better address delicate situations.
I know a girl with a rare chronic disease who has joined a group of people scattered throughout Italy who battle the same problem. In the group, they exchange advice, articles, and scientific research, share the benefits of certain treatments, encourage one another, etc. Within this group she feels completely understood.
Of course, those people cannot replace the love she receives from loved ones and friends, but they offer a unique and extraordinary emotional support. It’s a sort of support that comes from others who understand what she is going through, since no one in her social circle has the same diagnosis. That community, albeit virtual, gives her strength and makes her feel less alone.
How much does the care (even if virtual) of those who are going through the same thing matter?
There are many testimonies about the importance of sharing – with a select group of people – situations that, perhaps, you feel you are left all alone to face, in your own geographical area or in your own social circle.
This doesn't mean running away from real life and relationships to take refuge in a virtual world. Rather, it's about encouraging and supporting those who are dealing with similar things.
If we think about it, social networks are irreplaceable in this regard because they allow us to connect with people who, without the benefit of online networks, we might never have met.
Just one example: a friend of mine had twins. No matter how hard other moms try, they can't fully comprehend what it's like to have a twin pregnancy, to care for children of the same age, with the same needs, at the same time. She joined a Facebook group for women who had twins, where they exchange advice on childcare. In that group, she feels "understood." She knows she is not the only one with certain fears or guilt (for example, for the "inability to split herself in two" or the fear of not being fair). This group provides her the support she needs to have more peace of mind and ideas for how to make the most out of any situation with her children.
In sharing, pain takes on a different appearance
In life’s greatest trials, that’s precisely when we realize how much others mean to us and how much we mean to others.
Recently, in preparation for writing a book, ( Diary of Happiness vol. 2, Mimep Docete, 2021) I researched the story of Carlotta Nobile, an internationally renowned violinist who died of cancer in 2013.
Initially determined to keep her pain to herself, not even telling close friends that she was sick, she realized that connecting with others would give her strength.
She started the website Cancer and Then..., a site where people support one another and share fears and goals, knowing that everyone would understand each another.
She said: "There are so many sites that talk about cancer from a medical point of view, but there’s no place on the internet where you can share your struggles, fears, and anxieties related to this disease."
By sharing with others on this page, she found the strength to see cancer as a "teacher" and not as an enemy.
One day, she posted a question that most people who fall ill ask themselves: "Why me?" someone answered her, "And why not me?"
In that moment, something began to profoundly hit her. She understood that this illness is not a punishment, but rather a possibility – a challenge to grow and help others. Carlotta would eventually die, but with peace she never would have found had she not opened herself to the love of God and others.
Obviously, there is a danger of closing oneself off and simply living life through a screen, because one feels safe, while fearing confrontation with those who "can’t understand us."
We risk victimizing ourselves (where we feel sorry for ourselves, instead of helping each other to be strong).
There are tendencies to fall into that – as in all things.
But we thought it would be worthwhile to highlight the positive aspects of this experience, certain that the internet can also help us to feel like a united community. Or better yet, a unified family.