Tuesday, May 07, 2013
One of the best things about SparkPeople is its wonderful sense of community. I've received some fantastic encouragement and support from the people on this site in the 3+ years I've been active here and feel like I've really formed a strong bond with many of my SparkFriends.
Every once in a while, however, I'm reminded of the fact that this is a virtual community and that our relative anonymity, while often comfortable, makes it easier for people to just fade away when times get tough. In spite of how much we talk about support being a critical part of this process and how useful it is when you're not at your best, it seems like it's even harder to stay connected when you've fallen off the wagon--that being surrounded by other people who all seem to be achieving what you can't just adds to your sense of frustration and disappointment. I've mourned many a loss of people who seem to have taken that route but, the truth is, I often don't really know why they chose to leave SparkPeople because it was a silent departure. I forge on in their absence, but it does make me sad. Every now and then, I'll check on old friend's page in the hopes that they've come back. Occasionally, I'm pleasantly surprised to get a message from an old friend who's decided to come back, but often there's hardly a trace of my old buddy to be found. And, I admit, I feel a bit like a girl who's been stood up on prom night.
What happens when a person disappears from SparkPeople? Do they choose not to log in and turn off all of their notifications? How do they feel about completely shutting out all of the support that they had once been so reliant on? Sometimes they take down their SparkPages altogether so it's almost as if they never existed even if they were so upbeat and motivating while they were active here. I haven't left SparkPeople since I joined up, but I had previously pulled away from Weight Watchers and here's what happened:
I reached goal, maybe maintained for a very short time, then experienced a big gain in a relatively short period of time. Rather than using that gain as a wake-up call to take action and lean on the support that was offered to get back on track, I just left. I felt embarassed, like the shining example I had been setting was tarnished and that I was somehow letting everyone else down. But the truth was, the person I was letting down most was myself. Inevitably, my absence meant that I was rapidly regaining all of the weight I had lost, and often a whole lot more. And what's more, I really wasn't giving the people in my support group the credit they deserved. If support systems existed just for when times are good, then we really wouldn't need them, right? It's when times get tough that we should really feel like we can lean on the people around us to help us pick up the pieces. And there wasn't a single time when I went crawling back with my head down, admitting that I had made a big mistake in leaving, that I wasn't welcomed with open arms.
If you're on the fence about whether you should stay or go here on SparkPeople, please seriously consider sticking around. There are so many people here who are willing to help and who have been exactly where you are now. WE UNDERSTAND. If you've left, but are silently lurking and happen to read this, please think about becoming active again. This isn't an easy road we're paving for ourselves, but it's so much more difficult when we feel like we're going it alone. If you know someone who's withdrawn, but still has their SparkPage up, think about sending them a little note to see how they're doing and to let them know that they've been missed. Maybe they won't respond, but your message just might be the thing that helps them to realize that there are people here, even in this anonymous virtual world, who care and helps them get back on track. And if you're an old buddy of mine who's been out of touch, please don't be afraid to reconnect. I've probably missed you more than you'll ever know.