Did you know it is only four months until MasterChef Australia? I know, because I have been counting it down. Is it because I miss George, Gary and Matt? Sort of. Or because my life is presently bereft of parfaits, journeys and food-dreams? Maybe a little. But the real reason that May can’t get here fast enough is because of a Facebook group.
Last year, two friends decided that out of respect for their Facebook friends, they would start a group to discuss Masterchef, so their friend’s feeds wouldn’t be clogged with in-jokes and fennel fronds. The title of the group would be regularly changed over the season to reflect incidents in the show (at the end of the season we voted “I just Khanhn’t Even” as our favourite name). And so our little group was born. My husband thought it was hilarious that I spent more time looking at my phone than at the television, but the banter was half the fun. We fan-girled over Samira’s bread making skills, and joked about Ben’s ocka lines. We laughed at the pretension, all the while being brought to tears as the contestants left the competition. We had our own virtual mystery-box competition (turns out Snow-eggs aren’t that difficult, who knew?). In our Grand-final thread we easily surpassed one thousand comments.
May and June of 2018 would not go down as the best two months of my life. At it’s peak, I calculated I had 7 different appointments for my kids in the one week. Sickness cycled round our family, finding it’s regular resting place on me. A good friend had moved interstate, another was in the midst of new studies, while another planned a wedding. It was a lonely time, but not a time where the loneliness could be fix by just going out and being social. I didn’t have the health; mental or otherwise, to do much more than survive. But my little Masterchef Crew and our Facebook group made that time bearable.
Social Media gets a bad rap. With Instagram influencers, Twitter-trolls, cyber bullies and our information being sold to corporations, it is understandable. And there is something beautiful about communicating away from a keyboard. One of the highlights of the year was a good interstate friend deciding it was time to resurrect the phone conversation. We talked for over an hour and I could have talked for two more. And I know I need to get my head out of my phone and into the world more often than I do.
But Social Media connections can get a bad rap for being fake. And yet I have some very real, very wonderful friendships that have grown over the internet.
Many years ago I met a friend through blogging, who introduced me to an online support group. A group who all were going through the same struggles, and who needed a safe place to vent, cry, and enjoy our own macabre little jokes (#TeamShrubberyForever). I wasn’t going to meet those women in person, they all lived half a world away. But they were there for me, and my friendships with them are not fake or inferior because we are yet to met in person.
Fiction writing is a lonely pursuit for an extrovert. Yet I have friends on almost every continent who I interact with daily, as we spur each other on through the writing game. I remember loving Uni, because it was moving from the small circles of high school, into a wider sphere where there were people who really got me. I found my squad. And the internet is an even bigger world to find your squad. If you look in the right places you are sure to find those who share your love of crocheting or anime.
Or who love yelling together at the television set “Just put it in the Blast-Chiller!”
The reality for some friends is that socialising face-to-face is a challenge all the time. It could be because of chronic illness or social anxiety. For them, social media is where the real friendship happens. And it is rude to imply that because those friendships are connected by a keyboard, and not a coffee-table, that they are somehow not real.
2019 should (hopefully) be a very different year for me. I am looking forward to a year where I can come up to breath. Where I can go to things, and meet people, and hang out.
But I am also looking forward to May. Because there is a new world of foodie-fun awaiting me, and I can’t wait to watch it with my friends.