Finding online connections with others Print
Youth Column
Written by Erick Rommel, Catholic News Serice   
Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

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 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."


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

As you read the messages on the "Dear My Blank" Tumblr, you begin feeling a closeness and kinship with people you've 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 their laugh, or their smile melts your heart? How much could you 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's impossible to feel alone when you're supporting someone else facing the same challenges.

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

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 is a former staff writer for The Catholic Spirit in the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J. His column is syndicated through Catholic News Service.


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