Sugar 2.0

As I’ve done the speaking circuit for several years now on this whole social media thing I’ve always had my schpeil about it being my ‘virtual cup of sugar.’ You know, gone are the days where we borrow that cup of sugar from our neighbor and we talk kids and schools and life and we’ve moved that conversation and companionship online. I’ve found my ‘virtual’ cup of sugar in my blogging and social media communities. We still share the same friendship and advice and community-we just do it through our computers and smartphones and tablets and gaming systems.

After today though, I’ve realized the yearly (or sometimes less or sometimes more) face-to-face meet ups aren’t enough. I want my virtual cup of sugar to magically turn back into that real cup of sugar. And throw in some eggs I need for that cake I’m making too.

I want you all here.

I have seen it first hand with my illness: it does take a village. And while I LOVE that my village is available to me 24/7 with a click and a keystroke…it does not and has not replaced the need for actual kitchen table talks. For a long while I really thought it did. I truly thought this online community was what I had, and it was enough. It was all I needed.

I was wrong.

This week two of my friends came and just sat and chatted with me. I needed it. I needed just having girlfriends over to talk kids and life. Then my Mom called with news you expect parents to give after a certain age and I felt the tug of wishing they were closer so I could be there to help with doctor appointments and life. Then another ‘blog’ friend shared her trials and tribulations while she goes through a divorce and again I felt that tug of wishing she were next door, so I could walk over with tea and a pie and we could grab forks and talk and eat straight from the tin as we gabbed the night and fears away.

I love social media for this wonderful and robust community it has given me. Friends I never would have, people I never would know, true companions that have touched and helped my family in our time of need. But I also hate social media for giving me this ache in the pit of my stomach as I have become so invested in their lives and knowing so much more than I might without it- forcing me to care and love and give and curse the distance between us all.

We joke that we’d start our own commune, just so we could all be near. But even if we were, would we stay inside or walk next door to share that pie and talk shop? Hell even my husband and I tweet each other from the same couch.

Think about that for a second. We tweet each other from the same couch.

Part of why we are what we are…this community of misfits and writers and oversharers and friends…does involve the safety of our screen and keyboards. I tell you more some days because I know I won’t bump into you as I drop my kids for school and I won’t hear about it from my Aunt’s friend’s hair dresser who heard from the plumber’s roofer’s golf buddy who told HIS wife. You know, the small town thing.

So I lament our long distance relationship but wonder if it is only possible because it is the way it is. I get to have you and you get to have me because we feel safe becoming friends and staying friends this way. We feel safe falling in love with one another and one another’s worlds because we only occasionally dip our toes into those worlds and even then it’s under the guise of vacation or dinner or a brief meet up.

However with Lupus now here to stay many of you have gone from dipping your toes into my world to crossing the entire foot and body over the threshold of my door. Your luggage in hand, leaving your shoes in our cubby and figuring out which kitchen cabinet holds the mugs for tea.

And I like it. No…I love it.

I want your visits to never end and I cherish the moments from the fleeting drive through towns, to the long weekends, to the week-long stays to help.

And I think to myself…we could pull off that commune. We really could. And my mind wonders and I worry if you’ll find the right bakery or the right library or if your animals would eventually get on my nerves or if you’d quickly tire of my ailments and medications and constant need for a ride to the doctor and back.

It is because of all this I find myself wondering if we’ve gotten in over our heads with social media. Far, far over our heads. And yes, I realize I’m saying this as a professional social media strategist.

I now have more close friends who have supported me in so many ways that I can’t even begin to thank them for the love they have given me and my family. And these are NOT fake friends. These are people who have slept in my home, picked me up from procedures where I was barely conscious. I needed help putting on my bra or I told you I looked terrible with a tube down my nose and throat. You’ve met me at my doctor’s office to hug me or to hand me gifts, homemade for me or my kids.

These are the people with whom you do not just share a virtual cup of sugar. You share the real thing, so much so that it spills over the measuring cup and makes your fingers sticky as you walk back up the drive to your own home.

Maybe that’s the answer right there though…just like everything in life, relationships are sticky. And the more real they get, the stickier they get.

Social media has just brought a bigger mess into our lives. A mess that which I, for one, am grateful. It has brought family closer together as the miles continue to push us apart. It has brought old friends back into the fold and new friends into our lives.

I guess we’re all still working on how we balance that virtual vs. next door. In every neighborhood there is always the busy body looking out her blinds too much, or the neighbor you avoid because you just know she’ll talk your ear off for an hour, or just one of your best friends who you really wanted to hug and help, knowing it didn’t matter how sticky, the mess was well worth it in the end.

And while I thank the medium for giving me this community, it’s time my cup of sugar got an update.


  1. Jeeze! I’m totally picking up what you’re putting down.

    Granted, I don’t have lupus and I can never totally empathize with you but I can sympathize in that I’m not exactly “sane” and there have been so many “internet friends” who have physically helped me through.

    It’s those small…human moments that get use through. Things people forget about. Things some take for granted.

    It’s nice to know you have someone to lean on.

  2. So let’s do something about this. And I’m totally serious. I’ve resumed my health blogging lately and really been leaning on more virtual and in-person communities too. Let’s plan a summit in LA – call it Sugar 2.0 or BlogHer Health or Community Commune, whatever. And let’s have an unconference element where we work on a takeaway plan for a longer term in-person meets virtual community. Let’s bring the people of BlogHer, GimpGirl, ForGrace, Lupus communities, cancer communities and the like together and talk about what we can do for each other and the next generation with these amazing tools at our disposal. I’m happy to serve on the planning committee.

    Communities like these save lives. I don’t know what I would’ve done without my blogger friends in the worst days of my health problems. Many of them (including you, of course) have helped me online, offline and in person in so many valuable ways. Yet I still receive e-mail or comments weekly from somebody else with the same or similar health problems who has been feeling so alone… there’s no single virtual network where people can go to find supportive communities during tough times, but we can create more ways they can find each other.

    I’ve come to believe the psychological side to injuries, illness, trauma, pain and other health problems is just as important as the physical healing itself. We cannot downplay the importance community has for us with all we’ve been through. Anyway, I would love to find a way to turn this into something that can help more people who are suffering.

  3. Commune. F.T.W.


  4. I really understand what you are saying.I only have my online support.Once you (meaning me ) got worse everyone disappeared.I even had some de-friend me completely because I could not take her shopping.I can go weeks with out seeing a sole outside hubby and kidlets(besides drs)

  5. I love you so hard. That is all.

  6. Mike Burns says:

    Tear to the eye. That was beautiful, Erin. I’m better off for having clicked through and read it. I may not communicate directly much, but I follow along, and I care and cheer and ache. You’re one of the bravest and strongest people I know, even when you’re not feeling particularly strong … or brave.

    The world in which we grew up is gone. This new world is exactly as intricate and complex as you describe. Aside from channeling Star Trek or something, I can’t imagine what the kids will be experiencing in 5-10 years.

    Stay strong and enjoy the sugar however it comes to you.

  7. Every time I read one of your posts, I get so INVOLVED in it. And then the tears start… You’re amazing. One of these days, I’ll tell you that in person and give you a big hug. Oh yeah and I’m so bringing the Mexican food.

  8. habanerogal says:

    Lots of sweet sweet sugary goodness no matter what you make me laugh/cry and I love it. If the commune ever gets off the ground I’ll bake the bread !

  9. Yes. I must agree with You. I am grateful to find a community of people that I may never have known otherwise. However, I do miss the actual cup o’sugar, sometimes.

    I suffer from fibromyalgia…same family of illnesses. I’ve had it for over 15 years. It’s definitely hard to live with and it’s nice to be able to find others who may be able to help us feel connected.

  10. Todd 'tojosan' Jordan says:


    Now I’m wondering how I can get there and bring wine.

    You’ve been a fixture in my online world for years now. Hoping to hang in person soon.

  11. I get it. There have been so many times when I said to my mom that I wished you lived next door so I could come over and check on you (or play Halo with you). Most of my friendships are online and they’re wonderful, but sometimes I just wish I could hug the people who make my life richer.

  12. What I’ve learned to love about social media is how it brings people to me (and me to them) who are experiencing things I was ignorant about, like Lupus and its daily effects on the body, the life, the mind, the children, the family. Or cancer, or divorce, or bereaved parents. I get a window into people’s lives — some dealing with things I never knew existed. And you’re right; I do hide behind my screen sometimes and will say shit about too much liquor and not being able to pay the car note since November that I would never say in person. It gives that freedom and I’m thankful (even in the midst of just wishing the person I was telling was in front of me so I could whisper it and get a hug).

    While yes, I do wish I were closer to some of you physically, I am still glad that through blogs and conferences we can sort of bridge the non-touching gap. Where your post made me warm and I fully “got it”, Sarah’s comment inspired me. I want in on whatever you decide to do with this, wherever it goes, however it’s commenced. Because I like the word commune even though it makes me think we should all be naked. Yet we will not be naked b/c, just, no.

  13. xoxo

    That is all.

  14. I was just thinking I should come over…

  15. Damn you Erin, you made me cry.

  16. If it weren’t for the internet, I would not know you. My life would indeed be a sadder place. xoxo

  17. This is lovely and so are you!


  1. […] I am in fact surprised how annoyed I am about my spam follower. I guess it’s just the supreme ick of reminding me how much of a thorny wild woods the internet still really is, when I have basically convinced myself to start this – finally – based on the warm fuzzies of people like The Bloggess and posts like this one. […]

  2. […] The post I linked previously at the Queen of Spain blog, about Sugar 2.0, got me moving. In that piece she articulated what I wanted – that feeling of community. I want to be part of the friendly world she describes. To do that I have to do more than read. I have to be seen. […]

  3. […] I’ve said before, a few weeks ago I read a post on the Queen of Spain’s blog called Sugar 2.0. She talks about the virtual “cup of sugar”: the connections that often happen on-line now, […]

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