Friendship is important. That's really an understatement. In 2016, friends aren't necessarily confined to the workplace, school or IRL situations. Social media has become a very viable platform to create new and fulfilling bonds between new people from distant places to whom we wouldn't, otherwise, have access. The feelings of wanting to belong or be loved don't disappear when we sit behind keyboards or our phones. And not for nothing, some connections are deeper than real life relationships could ever be. The heart doesn't distinguish between the two.
Sisterhoods and brotherhoods form over exchanged pleasantries, tragedies, fuckboys, love and heartbreak, faux Becky feminists, or any other range of topics which bring us together.
I am not exempt. In fact, my husband will complain sometimes to me for spending so much time "with those people I don't know". *insert side eye* But I do know them though. Fuck it. It's not worth explaining to someone who barely uses his Facebook. Bae has like 50 friends and can barely post a selfie. Good day, Sir!
We take everyday interactions on social media for granted. Folks like to boast about having the ability to detach themselves from the people with whom they interact on Facebook, Instagram, etc. They make damn near orgasmic declarations of how they are so much better than the other people who can't control THEIR histrionic outbursts. All because "this isn't real life".
I'm calling bullshit.
Last Saturday night, I called my homie, Val Rich (an amazing tarot card reader btw), to check on her AND get the latest tea. She is someone whom I met on Facebook. We've yet to meet in person but I love her to death. We were having the finest of kikis when Val, suddenly, became quiet. She was eerily quiet and guarded. Then, she proceeded to ask if I knew Lanika Ortega? The name didn't sound familiar to me so I responded, "No."
Val: "You gotta know Lanika. She's a regular commenter on my page…. You don't know her?"
Me: "Naw.. why wassup with her?"
Before I continue, let me say that if you're interacting with folks everyday and you may or may not remember their names. In that moment, her name didn't ring a bell.
Val: "Last Saturday (8/27/2016), Lanika was killed. Let me find the news story. Lanika Ortega..I'm gonna send it to you…. you don't remember her?"
Me: "Wait what? NAW. What the fuck? What happened?"
This is where shit gets real. Val went on to tell me that Lanika was murdered by her husband. She was stabbed to death by her husband. This sister bore him 3 beautiful children, had a PHD, was a social worker and a doting grandmother. And gone. Killed in the driveway of her Yuma, Arizona home. At.the.age.of.37. Let that marinate. Valerie was in tears. I'm talking about soulful weeping. She spoke of her homegirl with love, respect and reverence. She mentioned a conversation they had a few months before her death. Lanika spoke of wanting to empower herself, she wanted to rebuild her self-esteem. I can, only, imagine that her monster of a husband had drained that from her. Lanika wanted to be happy and enjoy life.
I, immediately, hit my Facebook because NOW I needed to put a name to the face. I searched her name and…DAMN. I clicked her photo and there sat her pending friend request. I saw it a few weeks back and didn't respond. I felt numb. This sister had attempted to be close to me. And then, I remembered her. I had written a blog post about black women being duped into taking the high road and how we needed to implement self-care for ourselves. WE had a dialogue on Val's Facebook about that post. I interacted with a ton of sisters that day. Even did a radio show from that post. Damn. Now, she's gone. I accepted the request postmortem and went through her photos. It wasn't about being inquisitive or nosy but more about extending my hand to a sister who needed sisters to love her. No matter the location. She was beautiful. And yes, I saw the sadness in her eyes.
I attempted to comfort my friend. I was extremely familiar with her pain. My cousin, Dejuana Sellers, was killed a little over 25 years ago by her boyfriend. She was 4 months pregnant. He drowned her in the bathtub of their home and then set the house on fire. It's not something that we talk about… But I remember. Val was inconsolable but in that moment, she asked me the most beautiful thing. She asked me could I write about her friend. A woman whom she had never met but somehow was moved enough to call her a friend.
My faith gives me the understanding to know that you will hear this. You ARE important. You touched people. And you will not be forgotten. Most importantly- YOU ARE LOVED.
Ibae Tonu, Lanika.
We can't pretend that the people with whom we have built substantial relationships on social media aren't important to us. Sites like Facebook can be wonderful sources for black folks to find joy and love. It is also a place for us to mourn. I am positive that many of us have forged great friendships with people on Facebook, Snapchat, the Disqus comment section..etc. So why should a person have to separate genuine emotions they may feel for another human being all because a social interaction online isn't tangible to someone else? Who's making up these fake ass friendship etiquette rules? We should, absolutely, celebrate wins, send virtual hugs and comfort one another because life is fucking hard. Humanity can be virtual because we are all human even if the world sees us as something different. Be grateful and appreciative for the people who look past their 23 inch screens to see your heart. Some people don't have the luxury of having IRL friends and blood is not synonymous with family.