My Shrinking World

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The photo that started me thinking

In my last post I wrote about how addicted much I love Instagram. If anything—since I wrote that post I’ve become even more of a fan. But that’s not what this post is about.

The other day (for the first time ever) I met an Instagrammer in person (@montaukpete)—someone I’d never met before nor do I “know” on Instagram. A guy was getting ready to kayak on the river I pass each morning on my walk. I asked him if I could take a photo of him for Instagram and that’s when he told me he was on Instagram too!

That’s not what this post is about either—not exactly.

I’m also on Facebook where I’m “friends” not just with people who are friends in real life but also (probably like a lot of you reading this blog) lots of other writers and readers, too, most of whom I’ve never met in real life. The other day I posted one of my photos on FB instead of on Instagram (the accounts are not linked and I plan to keep it that way)—

That’s when it happened—and what this post is about. My worlds collided.

First things first: right before I posted the photo, I became friends on FB with two Instagram friends. It was wonderful. One in Montana and one in Norway. The kind of connections we all hope to make in social networking. Friends without boundaries. One of those Instagram friends “liked” that FB photo. But so did my daughter, my cousin, and my son’s girlfriend. A neighbor. The mother of one of my daughter’s friends who has become a close friend. And another two close IRL friends. Then several bloggers who are now also FB friends. Next a couple of friends I’ve also only met on Facebook. A few of these Internet friends I’ve been fortunate enough to talk to on Google Chat, too—and they’ve become IRL friends.

Back to the photo. It was also liked by my hairdresser and a former co-worker who has become a good friend, and a friend I’ve known since high school. That photo brought into sharp focus that I have several different worlds, Instagram being my latest. I also have my world of Mom and family. My world of Facebook and author friends. My world of Writer Unboxed (where I’m a contributor and also an admin assistant). My world of Twitter and blogging that I’ve been part of for over three years. My real world of neighbors and town as a Maine citizen. And the world of my childhood.

But with that one photograph, I also realized that all my worlds are closing in fast to create one small world. Kind of like a reverse big bang. And I have to say, I’m a fan. Now there’s something I like even more than Instagram—because the way I see it, no matter how I find friends (or they find me) I can never have enough of them.

Which leaves me with just this: thank you for being a part of my world, my friend.

How has your world changed with social networking? Have you made friends with people online who have become IRL friends? Do you like your life blended or do you prefer to keep it compartmentalized?




  1. Chris says:

    I’ve met quite a few people in real life that I met first online. It pre-dates what we call “social media” today, though. Through music forums I met people online, set up shows around the country for our our tours, etc. and did the same for others in return. In fact, I met my wife online. I was writing record reviews for a website and someone suggested she send her band’s demo to me, and that’s how we met.

    As for today, I think Instagram is my favorite too. I think what people choose to photograph says a lot about them that maybe other outlets don’t.

    • I love that you’re my first commenter today, Chris — I’ve told many people that we connected over the love of a good book. (I still hold The Blind Corral up as my all time favorite and have had trouble connecting with other books since.) Music must be a wonderful way to connect with others, what a great way to meet people. And your story about how you and your wife met is wonderful.

      I think your analysis of Instagram is right on. I love the stories I can see behind the photos.

  2. Gloria Laflamme says:

    I used to be critical of social media until I found a man on Facebook, in Israel, who is an activist, educating and protesting, combating violence against women in his country . I had read an article that mentioned him, and there he was. He contributed a paper that helped me create a class presentation when I was in college last year. My attitude about social media changed after that.

    • That’s such a great story, Gloria. It’s so true that the ability to find and connect with people like that (along with the more serendipitous connections) are what make the internet an amazing way to meet with people and make our worlds smaller. Thank you for the comment and so glad we connected on Instagram, friend!

  3. Julia – My honest-to-goodness best friend lives in Canton, Georgia. We’ve been friends for almost 8 years, yet have never met in person. Each evening she emails me a brief recap of her day, plans for the following day. Each morning I respond to it with a recap of my previous day and plans for the current day.

    Two years ago I didn’t receive an email from her. I got worried and sent a private Facebook email to her brother. In turn, he checked on her — finding her alone and in her home, in major physical distress. An emergency trip to the hospital and one pacemaker later, our online friendship not only proved to be life saving, but life affirming as well.

    I’m grateful for my in-person (face-to-face) connections AND my online friendships. Like you, I experience them as equally valuable.

    Wonderful post — thank you!

    • Wow, that’s an amazing story about your best friend, Laurie! What a wonderful friendship. It’s so interesting how some people just seem to click — online or in person. Glad you enjoyed the post, and thank you so much for your comment.

  4. Cynthia Robertson says:

    “Kind of like a reverse big bang.” Love this post, Julia.

  5. Kristen says:

    Well, you are one of my favorite Instagrammers, let’s just start with that first! Your photos are always so stunning. You totally sold me on Maine and I am planning a weekend solo R&R trip up there later this summer. And like Cynthia above, I was struck immediately by that sense of reverse big bank because, yes!, that is what it is for you, isn’t it? That is so great, something I aspire for myself. But truthfully, I cannot seem to get much traction moving some budding online acquaintances into something IRL, even though the compatibility (I think) is high. I’m so tentative because I don’t want to seem disingenuous or bother people who are not looking for a deeper level of connection. Maybe I’m my own problem. But I’m OK with that. I use FB strictly for close family/friends, but almost all of those folks are not on Twitter or IG, which is where I present my “public” self and spend 90% of my time these days. So I really do have two/three separate spheres of interactions. So, even though I’d love it if some of the online relationships deepened IRL, even if they never do I still get a lot just from seeing folks’ IG photos, funny tweets, latest blog posts, etc. It is fun, isn’t it!?

    • Well, Kristen, I have to admit I had a bit of a tear this morning while I read this — what a sweet and kind note. I think the reason the online life is so meaningful for me is because I spend so much solo time at the dining room table writing or even out taking photos. The natural progression for me to reaching out IRL must be partially due to my journalism training. I just want to hear the stories, get to know the person behind the picture. As for your separate spheres… didn’t we meet first on Twitter? I really thank you for taking the time to look at my blog and am so very happy you’ve got plans to visit Maine. Thanks again for making my day, friend 🙂

  6. I thought I wanted to keep the worlds separate because I’m a fairly private person, so I created an author page on Facebook, apart from my personal page. But it’s a futile effort and the worlds merge regardless, so now the only result is that I have to post to two pages rather than one. 🙂

    • I hear you about the two pages vs. one, Jessica! Except I also have one for my pseudonym. Too much! I’m a fairly private person, too, though, so I know exactly what you mean. Futility, agreed.

  7. Julie Luek says:

    There is this wonderful intersection of our worlds, isn’t there? And it’s not as small as we think. I’ve had the honor of meeting a few of my online friends and would love to meet a few more (like you!). Lovely post.

    • Yes, an intersection, exactly. It’s pretty incredible. In the past week I’ve had two IRL friends happen to be in the same small towns as Twitter and Instagram friends… they never met up but it just seemed strange that I was communicating with all four people and the ones in the same town had no knowledge of one another! I would love to meet more of my online friends (like you, too!). Glad you could relate, Julie!

  8. I think about this a lot, actually. For several years I tried excruciatingly hard to keep my “real life” separate from my “online life,” only to realize that online IS real, and that many of the friends I was making ended up crossing over — or vice versa. I’ve slowly been coming to terms with the fact that I can’t keep the “social” aspect of my “work” separate from my regular social life. I haven’t given up having a few private havens, and I don’t plan to, but I have come to accept and even sometimes enjoy the way, as you say, my worlds are colliding.

    • I’m a very private person, too, Annie — so I know exactly what you mean. Slowly my real life and my online life seem to be becoming one and the same, but (like you) I still protect my private havens. That will never change 🙂

  9. Lisa Ahn says:

    Great post, Julia. I know I have a lot of new friends from those colliding worlds. And I’m grateful for that!

  10. Aw, such a heart-warming post, Julia. I’ve yet to discover Instagram, but the more you talk about it, the more I want to. And yes, all these worlds come together beautifully don’t they – separate planets and stars but all part of the same universe. The unexpectedness of it all is one of the loveliest things, meeting and chatting to people we otherwise would never have had contact with. Just fab!

  11. Nina says:

    I love this ode to the social media connections. I absolutely love it, too. While there are some drawbacks to the online world (too much time on screens), I DO think there are fulfilling relationships and connections you’d never make otherwise. There’s more good than bad for sure!