The morning of the Turning a New Love Leaf Meetup at Ocean Beach I woke up plagued by the heaviness of my own uncertainties in my love life. I became a breakup coach to help other people get past their breakups, and here I was feeling teary-eyed and heavy as I drove to set up the ceremony for people I had not yet met. I knew I was in a state vulnerable enough that I couldn’t help but to let my mind wonder to the uncertainties of my future. In a moment of clarity it hit me:
THIS IS WHY I DO THIS WORK. THE FEAR OF LOSING LOVE AND CONNECTION IS TERRIFYING.
Why am I crying in public?
It is that overwhelming feeling of being alone, and unsure about the stability of the relationship with your one chosen partner or your one, two or zero remaining biological parents that brings so much loneliness and anxiety into the lives of people wrestling with ending or shifting a romantic relationship. After reading Sex at Dawn, and studying Emile Durkeim’s theory of anomie I see how myself and the people I am closest to find ourselves feeling alone and like personal failures because we lack a stable, tight knit group structure that relieves pressure from the stresses we feel with our partners and nuclear families. So on that particular morning, the one I chose as a date for offering hope and healing to others, I started to sniffle, then cry as I was leading a visualization with a group of people, most of whom found me through the internet.
I later found out my sniffling and cracking voice signaled the safety of the circle as a place for unbridled tears. One woman personally thanked me for crying as I led the ceremony. Another participant said he was waiting for the first sniffle before he let out his own. The very outcome I feared was what the group members valued the most: permission to cry in a supportive circle.
Why am I choosing a profession no one has heard of?
I chose to serve as a breakup coach, and later a relationship coach, because I am familiar with the stagnation and overwhelm that stems from losing a relationship, and I know there are ways to avoid or better utilize those feelings. I trace much of my confidence and generous nature to having been fortunate enough to start my current partnership when I was 19, and I see how cultural narratives about individuality and the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO, for those of you outside the millennial generation) hamper people from seamlessly falling into a nurturing partnership that allows their true gifts and contributions to blossom.
It was at this ceremony that a member told me of a man from another Meetup inappropriately texting her after she entered her phone number as part of that Meetup’s profile info. Like her, I was appalled at this behavior and went back through my Turning a New Love Leaf Meetup privacy settings to better understand what our members were sharing with each other and the internet at large. I made my group settings more private and sent out a message to my members suggesting they review their profiles and settings.
Transparency and Transformation
Ready or not, the internet is here and sharing your personal life. What does it mean to live in a world where trying to be friendly and helpful on online forums leads to people inadvertently sharing private details? Each year brings new trends, technologies and policies to manage, so here are some thoughts and recommendations for navigating that World Wide Web with a sensitive heart:
General Online Privacy
1.When in doubt, send a private message.
2. Allow your heartache or transformation to comfort or inspire others online (start anonymously on sites such as Craigslist or Reddit, or be bold and share it on Facebook with the knowledge that you can never unshare).
3. Create Private Facebook groups with close friends or family members if you want to be able to quickly update a group about your personal life, while not worrying about repercussions from posting this information to all your Facebook friends.
- You can “hide your groups” from members outside your Meetup group (you don’t need to let the “20’s/30’s Single” group see that you are also a member of “Overcoming Depression”).
- Add a non face photo and a fake email address/phone number if you are uncomfortable (remember that stalkers and exes can do this too).
- Review your Meetup profile and edit questions you answered when you joined that are no longer what you want to share.
Happy healing and transforming! May the power of the internet be forever on your side.