Digital Friends

Digital Friends
December 27, 2013 Kate Rudy

By: Dawn Thompson 

Years ago, I would have never thought that someone I have never met in person could become such a valuable and meaningful person in our son’s life.  Because our son has nfa progressive neurological disorder, he has acquired many “friends” through social media. He has done this mostly through my accounts, which means that not many of the friends are children.

Recently I read about a child with the same disorder as our son, Neurofibromatosis, who was having trouble making friends. It really hit us hard because although Dylan is a good kid, he has many issues that interfere with the natural friend making process. He is working with psychologists and school social groups to learn new ways to interact positively with his peers. Being a pre-teen is hard enough, never mind having to deal with all these medical issues, learning disabilities, size differences and a feeding tube.  In addition, he has physical differences such as a deformed chest wall, that make him look different in the summer and tire easily when running.

While children realize Dylan is “different,” not many kids understand why he is different and very few have the patience to deal with all of the things he has going on. In fact, Dylan doesn’t even have the patience to deal with himself anymore. He is often frustrated and upset with himself for not being able to keep up. Although he is very blessed to have cousins that get along well, they usually only get to spend time together at family events and are not in each other’s everyday lives.

However, Dylan does have one friend though that has been with him over the years. His name is Bubba and he lives in New Jersey.

Dylan considers Bubba one of his best friends. They have been playing video games together for over three years. When I first heard the unfamiliar voice in my son’s bedroom through Skype, I was alarmed.  While they are online, Bubba’s family can hear everything that is going on in our home and we can hear things coming from their house, too!  It took a lot of monitoring and a while to get used to, but Bubba has become one of the family and Dylan one of theirs. I can hear Bubba’s dad laughing and talking to Dylan.  Although they are “best friends” Bubba doesn’t know anything about Dylan’s disabilities, and that’s o.k. For all we know, Bubba could have some too.

I have heard of kids pretending to be something they are not online and can see how it can be frightening, living in a fantasy virtual world. The kids have talked about meeting in person and we are considering driving to New Jersey this summer to meet Bubba and his parents. Because they have already formed such a strong bond, I don’t think anything can interfere with their friendship at this point.

This morning, my husband and I heard Bubba’s voice on Skype and I couldn’t help but notice that Bubba’s voice is turning into a young man’s voice. Reality sunk in and we realized how important is is to make this meeting happen before they both grow up. Time passes by too quickly and life is too short not to spend real time with ALL of our friends, even our digital ones 🙂

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