Yesterday (Saturday) Annabeth and Jeremy Edwards and I got together for a lovely lunch and chatfest, with friendship among writers, erotica writers in particular, as a major theme. After lunch we went back to Jeremy’s very nice apartment for a more focused discussion, which Jeremy recorded on his, well, recording equipment. I don’t even know the right term, but this was as close as I’ll ever feel to being in a garage band (albeit on the fifth story instead of in a garage.)
I eventually left to get home in time for an interview via Skype that my publisher had set up for me with Dr. Dick, whose sex-positive podcast series may be familiar to several of you. Lots of fun. Annabeth and Jeremy, who know their way around recording and cutting and making sense out of rambling streams of thought, kept on working to dig out and arrange the bits that would present our discussion well enough to share here, and Annabeth is going to do just that on Thursday.
I intended to give an overview here, but last night I was distracted, even overwhelmed, by the news that an online writer/graphic designer friend had attempted suicide. In fact we thought at first that he had succeeded, but it turned out that he’d been found in time and was in the hospital.
I don’t want to give too many details, because the specific details don’t matter. But the rallying of friends to share news and find out news and work on raising support—in spite of being a brilliant writer, our friend was essentially destitute and would need help if/when he got out of the hospital—was something I’ve seen before online, but never in as personal a context as this. He really mattered to many of us, and we could understand at least a small part of his despair even when we didn’t share his particular mental condition. My contribution, besides contributing, has been in locating one of his family members. I remembered the name of someone posting occasionally on his Facebook page who spoke as though she were related to him, and I managed to contact her by posting on a topic there where she had posted previously. (He’d recently blocked most friends from his page, but I was one of the dozen or so still allowed there, although he’d stopped posting.) She turned out to be his half-sister, and was very grateful to be notified. At this point a family member from the west coast is flying across the country to help out, and the family knows that we’ve raised some funds.
This seems to me to be a stark example of both the pluses and minuses of both online friendship and shared community friendship.
On the downside, our friend’s increasing depression had affected some of us who were inclined toward depression ourselves (which I’m not.) I’ve recently seen a report that Facebook participated in a study along these very lines, manipulating posts so that a selected group of people got mostly downbeat posts, and then assessing those peole’s own posts to see if they got gloomier. Sure enough, they did. I don’t know whether the report is true—I’d think that the study would be illegal, but I’ve never read the fine print in the Facebook agreement all that closely. It’s true, though, that being exposed to depressed people, people you’ve come to think of as friends and with whom you share the trials and stresses (as well as the gossip and helpful advice) of a community of like-minded people, in this case writers, is hard on us.
On the upside, most of us aren’t that extreme in our moods, and we can share our common concerns and be part of a worldwide community that gives us insights we might not otherwise have. There are friends I feel I know well in New Zealand, Australia, Portugal, Germany, England, Canada, and various other places. Some of them have written stories for my books, and I’ve written for some of them, while others share a variety of other interests. We might have been in contact on matters concerning writing even without the online forums and communities, but we probably wouldn’t have come to know each other as well.
Even the downside has an upside, because when our depressive friend needed help (though he may resent it) there were things we could do, and support we could give each other. I don’t know how matters will go from here, but we’ve done what we can.
Now back to the cheerier subject of our lunch and chatfest. Don’t miss Annabeth’s post—podcast?—where our freestyle musings have been distilled down to the gems of wisdom or food for thoughtful contemplation that were in there somewhere. Just be grateful—I certainly am!—that my own many digressions and indiscretions have been discreetly pruned away. I may even dare to listen to it myself.