During the past month, my wife, Mandy and I have made some new friends. Friends with names like @thepaintingdude and @mike2mb. Although the chances of us ever having a face to face meeting with them are pretty slim, we know a lot about them. Using a phrase that is getting more and more use today, we 'found them on the Internet.'
How we found these folks is the interesting part. Why we found them, and others, is a whole other story. But what I think may be the long-term consequences of having found them is why I'm writing this post.
First I became fascinated with Wii, Nintendo's wildly successful 'adult' video game system, owing to an observation that playing Wii can be good therapy for MS patients. So far I can tell, my gut feeling about that game was accurate. Now I am coming to the conclusion that social networking web applications such as Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and our new favorite, Twitter, can offer great therapeutic value to MS patients and others who at times feel alone and disconnected from society.
As a caregiver, I am always saddened when I watch Mandy begin her slide into a new MS relapse. Because I know what's coming. Within a short time she is going to begin to withdraw, daily naps will become longer as the fatigue takes hold, and the MoNster will begin its work trying to create a gulf between us. But Mandy and I are in this thing together and we have taken great pains, right from the start, to discuss these things when she is well so that we stay strong and win the battle when she's not.
Mandy's a writer, and writing takes up a good part of her day. Like myself, she's usually in front of a computer. Using these social networking websites to stay connected with distant friends and family, has become a fun pursuit for Mandy. When working, there's usually a little window on our monitors in which we read the 'tweats' of those Twitterers who we follow. Sometimes a comment will make you grimace, other times smile. Once in a while you even find yourself compelled to reply to the Twitterer. Believe me when I say that squeezing a well-tuned phrase into a post that is limited to 140 characters can be a challenge, but watching your post get read and then Re-Tweeted to a wider audience can be a sweet reward for your efforts.
MS patients complain of cognitive problems, something that was made all too clear by the number of comments that Mandy herself got on one of her recent posts. Twitter and the others force you to think. With so many people talking at once about so many varied subjects, the brain is forced to stay focused, synapses firing as it tries to make connections between the speakers or follow various conversations. It is my hope that rather than just adding to the din of life, Twitter and those services like it will present a new set of options to those we love and provide them with new ways to remain connected to both the world and, as a consequence, to us.
Published On: February 03, 2009