Guest Columnists

Finding Online Connections

By Erick Rommel

SOMETIMES WE SWING between constant feelings of insecurity about our place in the world. We tell ourselves, “No one knows what it’s like to feel the way I do right now.” Then we hear that everyone feels that way sometimes.

These two statements look like they belong in different worlds, but we know both to be completely true. We see the pain others feel and comfort them and tell them they are not alone. But when we encounter similar situations in our lives, we feel as if we’re alone in that pain.

Emily Trunko, a 15-year-old from Ohio, is using the Internet to end that isolation. Earlier this year, she created “Dear My Blank” on Tumblr to give people a place to anonymously post letters that they never intend to send.

Some messages are simple: “Dear J, Your laugh is like the sun shining on my face.”

Other messages are full of hope: “When we make eye contact and you smile that amazing, lovable smile it stops my heart. I hope one day I will stop your heart as well.”

A few of the notes are heartbreaking: “I wish you lived closer, but at the same time I’m glad you don’t. If we were together, I’d just ruin it anyway.”

Courage to Be Vulnerable

It takes courage to talk about our feelings. We are at our most vulnerable when we reveal the person we are inside. Risking that pain is sometimes necessary to discover greatness and joy beyond our imagination.

As you read the various messages posted on the “Dear My Blank” Tumblr, you begin feeling a closeness and kinship with people you have never met. Their feelings are universal, and so is the desire to keep those feelings hidden. By giving in to those urges, we do ourselves harm and cause pain in the process.

What would be wrong with telling someone you love his or her laugh, or that his or her smile melts your heart? How much could be lost (or gained) by being together with someone you like and seeing that misery isn’t the only outcome?

Keeping feelings inside and telling others they’re not alone are two sides of the same coin. When you tell others they’re not alone, you’re speaking to yourself as well.

Trunko has dealt with teens online who are struggling with depression, eating disorders, loneliness and a variety of other problems. She understands that it is impossible to feel alone when you are supporting someone else facing the same challenges.

Tapping Into Raw Emotion

She has tapped into a depth of human emotion previously left hidden.When we see just how similar we are, it is hard to feel isolated. You start seeing words typed by someone else that you could have easily written yourself.

One message from “Dear My Blank,” demonstrates that universal connection perfectly: “Even though we’re in different worlds, I hope our orbits cross, at least for a little while.”

Erick Rommel writes a syndicated column for Catholic News Service.

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