I bet the title made you look.
Don't worry, I'm not talking about those sort of benefits.
Over the past 8 years I have friended or followed dozens of people within the eating disorders community. The forums and groups were a safe place to go, not judging, always there and often gave helpful advice and reassurance. (Although I am writing this after being shot down for saying something on a group)
There was always a downside. Depending on how entrenched I was in my eating disorder I would follow people for the wrong reasons.
I would look at photos of very thin girls, 'thinsperation' as it is known in the pro-Ana community.
I have never been pro-Ana but the pull towards those people was always strong.
Over the years I have learnt that these relationships are not always healthy. I have always been open to others, made myself available online to those who need to talk but sometimes that needs to stop.
I often go through Facebook and have a friend cull. There's never any malice involved but If I find someones behaviours or attitude too triggering or negative I need to say goodbye.
If there is little benefit to the relationship then they need to go. I'm sure at times people have done that to me and that's OK. Its about what is right for you and what is beneficial.
I know I could just stop following but there is always the risk of taking a little peek. A risk I cannot take.
I now have a select number of friends from the ed community on social media, these are my friends with benefits. Friends from all over the world, people I trust and many I am honoured to have met.
Let me tell you about a few of them...........
A lovely woman from Brooklyn, New York who I stumbled across in 2010 on an eating disorders recovery forum. She is an amazing writer, singer songwriter and pianist.
Jenn was part of a blogging group which fuelled my passion for writing. She and several others took part in a recovery blogging challenge where we were given daily prompts, and shared online.
It was amazing to hear others voices and totally changed my views on a possible recovery.
Her recent album and book she published are pride of place on my bookshelf. She has the voice of an angel.
I was lucky to meet Jenn in 2016 on her first visit to the UK. She was everything and more than I expected. I took her to Glastonbury for the day and we laughed and laughed. I love her accent, the way she says bathroom, how she felt comfortable enough to rest her head on my shoulder on the long bus journey home. I laughed at her misunderstanding when I said 'Mary Quant.' She is a joy to be around. I'm sorry she left her cake in the shop but happy that I taught her how to swear in a northern accent.
Jen is now studying in London and we plan to meet next month in Bath. I cant wait.
I have been chatting to Kathryn online since 2016. We were both struggling with our eating disorder and at different stages of contemplation. We were a good support for each other.
I smile when I think of the late night chats, the drunken facetimes and the deep conversations one Christmas day. I was honest with Kathryn and I think she respected that. I even got away with calling her a knob.
I love the fact that Kathryn savours ever moment with her family, school holidays are full of good memories, she is a strong passionate woman who would do anything for her family. I value Kathryn's input but she has yet to tell me why shes goes with the nickname of Bruce!
A few weeks ago I took the plunge and travelled to Liverpool to meet her. A bit strange you may think. Meet a random person and stay at her house. Isn't that something that my Mother warned me about?
Thankfully she wasn't an axe wielding murderer, just a very friendly, cocktail loving Scouser with a lovely family.
She was an amazing host and I was made to feel at ease as soon as I got to Liverpool.
We had so much in common, even down to her getting ready to go out playlist. I spent a great day with the children and an even better night out hitting the bright lights of Liverpool with K and her Hubby.
We laughed about the 'urban legend' who was a real person, Purple Ackey the bogeyman of Merseyside. We sang along to the Greatest Showman and I was in awe of her banter with the taxi driver.............
Entertainment and alcohol aside, we clicked. We had experienced similar things growing up and dealt with it in not so positive ways. I was amazed at how relaxed I felt especially around food. They were very accommodating and thoughtful. Her daughter even gave up her room for me, although I did end up with several soft toys and a little girl on the bed in the morning.
Thank you Kathryn and Dave for accepting me into your home. You are a diamond.
Online friends can be beneficial.... but choose your friends wisely.