Growing a Social Garden

It’s so easy to take a social network for granted–thanks to the smorgasbord of social networking applications and platforms. The thirty second updates from high school classmates trumpeting their latest actions and relationships has (luckily!) made the dreaded high school reunion practically defunct.

While networking sites are great for headlines and bursts of activity updates, they obviously lack the personal interaction–the feel of sitting with a friend, face to face, at a bar, coffeeshop, your own couch. We spend most of early formative years building important personal interaction, constructing a web of friendships and relationships, face to face.

The college years too. Four years of intensive network expansion, testing of the social waters, testing out personalities, finding ourselves and hopefully a successful social network.

And then graduation hits. 

All the sudden day-to-day structure of interaction with like-minded individuals of the same age is shuttered. You have to learn how to socially swim. And fast.

Almost immediately after graduation, I moved away from my social network’s town. Tired of the scene in the Midwest, I packed my two-door hatchback and headed straight for the west coast. With only two friends in my new city, I spent the next three years building a shiny and new social network. Luckily most of my time was spent working in a customer-facing gig, so I quickly and easily connected with all sorts of folks—some older professionals working in the area, some younger like-minded twenty-somethings with similar dreams of living a Seattle-city-life–dreams of fulfilling creative and intellectually satisfying artistic or entrepreneurial endeavors.

Three years and I feel like I’ve finally grown a beautiful social garden. It started as a seedling with only a handful of familiar faces. Yet each one brings someone new to the party and slowly the garden grows.

Now Sam and I are leaving that social network behind. We’re abandoning all that hard work of building friendships, only to live in a city halfway across the world where we know no one, speak not a lick of the language, and know nothing of the culture, customs and ways of life. Hell, we’re not even familiar with the climate.

The past few weeks have been an exciting blur of preparing for a new life in Thailand. In the midst of starting a new, soul-enriching career, of planning to travel and see the world, I can’t help but diagnose myself as CRAZY for abandoning our half-built house of friends. It’s like we’ve homesteaded in the forest, cleared a few trees to lay the foundation, built four walls with interconnected logs, then abandoned the project before putting the roof on the house. What kind of shelter are we trying to build for ourselves?!

I know. That’s what social platforms are for, right? They’re brilliant for keeping in touch with friends and relatives, regardless of where you live.

I’m trying to think of this new adventure as another expansion. It’s a new opportunity to rebuild, and more importantly, enrich that social network. We’ll have to move quickly, establish friendships with no hesitation. Get out, meet people, enjoy the new variety of company while it’s there. And then when we leave that social network and return to the states, I can only hope the new Thai friends will be on Facebook.


About KShaw

English teacher in Thailand. Global Traveler. Amateur linguist. Reader. Writer. Photographer. Musician. Friend.
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