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OPINION: Finding solace in being social

By Nicky Marr

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By Nicky Marr

I know, I’m a shameless over-sharer on social media. Friends on Facebook will – unless they have blocked me – know that in the past few days I’ve dunked myself into several icy lochs, and walked, well wrapped up against the chill of the wind, to drink a flask of coffee at the shore of another.

I watched a heron catch its lunch during a solo walk in the shadow of the Kessock Bridge, and I was lucky enough to stumble across samples of the hair frost that Chris Packham was talking about on telly on WinterWatch.

In between all this wholesome fresh air and exercise, Facebook friends will also know we stayed at home and sat, ate and drank in front of the telly. Last week, as well as watching the US Presidential inauguration and more news coverage than is good for us, we devoured two box sets.

The Morning Show, boasting an A-list cast led by Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston (both of whom acted their respective socks off), is a clever and engaging unmasking of the #MeToo movement. By contrast, Ted Lasso is the joyful nonsense we need right now. A small-time American football coach is hired – for all the wrong reasons – to coach a fictitious English Premier League football team. Spilling over with positivity and toy soldiers, it’s almost perfect.

I don’t just post on social media, I’m a scroller, commenter and sharer too. I love that the phone in my hand keeps me in touch with friends from both around the corner and across the world.

And when we’re all locked down (locked up, some might say), social media is another way to check in, to keep up to date with how folk are coping and – yes, I know – to see what they are eating too. For me, cooking other people’s recipes is another way to feel closer when we can’t be round a table together.

I use other platforms, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram too. But the app that probably means the most to me is WhatsApp. That’s where I chat with those who matter most.

With five, sometimes six adults in our house (we’re in a Covid-compliant bubble), there’s domestic stuff to organise, like whose turn it is to cook dinner and whether the bathroom is clean. Our family WhatsApp chat is where that all happens. But more than just being an efficient way of communicating, that chat is a record of a time in our lives that never should have happened.

If not for this pandemic we’d never have lived with our daughters and their partners. It has been frustrating for us all at times – why do you think I’ve been doing all that walking and swimming? But it has been a real privilege to have them here too, playing Uno Flip and sorting each other’s washing.

I can’t wait for lockdown to end, but I’ll miss them horribly when they resume their own lives.

But the chat that actually means the most to me? It’s the one with the dozen of my closest Inverness friends. Set up by C last spring, when she discovered her cancer diagnosis was terminal, it was her way of keeping in touch as the last months of her life unfolded.

We posted photos of shared memories, shared silly memes, and felt properly connected. Running alongside that chat was an identical one, but without C. That’s where we shared our fears of losing her, the frustration that we couldn’t get together to support her or each other, and our deep, deep sadness when she died.

We each have an identical rose in our gardens, chosen by C, and just looking at that brings back her memory. But through our WhatsApp group, and through Zoom calls and occasional one-to-one outdoor walks, we know we have each other’s backs.

There’s been more sadness since C’s death; this month has brought another awful diagnosis, and over the months of the pandemic we’ve shared the burden of lost livelihoods, the loss of a parent, and our worries about our children and other family members. And while we can’t get together in person, this chat has been a lifeline. A solace. I am grateful and humbled to have such a lovely, supportive bunch of friends.

Social media and our phones are blamed for some awful stuff. Yes, it’s easy to sit and scroll and compare our lives to what we see others getting up to, and to forget that most of what we see is edited and filtered – we’re all guilty of just sharing the good stuff.

But dig a little deeper. Social media can be a real positive in our lives, if we use it wisely, helping us to stay social and connected in these darkest of days.

Read more from columnist Nicky Marr here.

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