Facebook and I fell out in 2012. More accurately: I threw my toys out of the pram. I couldn’t relate to the stream of updates about weddings, pregnancies and home ownership, and gave up altogether. I was surprised by how long I stuck it out – almost a year – before reluctantly returning, only to find that the impossible had happened: things had got worse in my absence. I persisted, because I knew it wouldn’t be long before I had something interesting to share, although my version of interesting was very much the same as it had been for the previous six years, revolving around new places, nights out, fun experiences and the mother of all holidays, rather than night feeds, guest lists and stop cocks.
My return to Facebook was triggered by spending the summer on a different continent to my existing friends and family – much like my blog, it began as proof of life, but has evolved into something different. I now have friends in multiple countries to keep track of (I still don’t relate to the babies, houses or nuptials), and the figure is growing steadily as I approach my second summer at camp.
As well as keeping in touch with camp staff I’ve already met and know, Facebook is connecting me to new ones. My camp sets up a staff group each year and soon after we’ve all left for the season, the next one begins and on it goes. There’s a huge influx of new members when international recruitment takes place throughout January and many introduced themselves, leading me to find three newbies from my department. We made friends, but didn’t speak, though I may or may not have stalked their profiles a little, as I’m sure they did mine.
Last week there was another influx, possibly because flights are being booked and some staff are turning to social media to distract them from their studies as the academic year grinds to a halt for university students. I gained another three friends and, because excitement is increasing, have actually spoken to most of them now.
It’s like talking to myself a year ago: I’m happy to answer their questions and pass on some of my seemingly-random knowledge (top tip for horseback staff? Buy two pairs of wellies on your supermarket trip – your first pair will break and you’ll have wet feet for a couple of weeks before you are able to shop again). I can feel the combination of anxiety and excitement through their words and endless stream of questions: what’s the dress code; how much will we ride; how many horses are there; who mucks out and when; what’s the schedule like? All at once, I want to reassure, encourage and inspire.
Do I tell them what it’s really like? Yes and no. Some things just can’t be described. I don’t want to scare anyone, even though it’s too late for them to pull out now. I don’t want to disappoint anyone, because really, how much do I know? Yes, I’ve lived it already, but who am I to say that certain things are impossible to achieve? The staff could well have the passion, enthusiasm and knowledge required to make improvements. So I keep it neutral, answer questions as best I can and wait. And try not to judge them based on what comes up on my news feed over the weekends.