This blog post is about a chemical reaction.
It is about a domino effect which has accelerated in a way I could never have thought possible in my wildest dreams.
@NotAloneAtXmas was born out of a hellish 3 months and an indescribable feeling of loneliness which I couldn’t shake. In the middle of the night about 1.5 weeks ago I woke up abruptly to the thought that if I was feeling this, there must be millions of others going through the same – especially coming up to Christmas. The feeling that I had to reach them was so strong in my head that I had to get up there and then and do something about it … almost as if the idea would dissolve if I didn’t act on it straight away. How I would do it was suddenly obvious … Twitter! I don’t think I even had to think about a name – it added itself.
On Friday afternoon, I waved goodbye to my little one until January, cried a lot, put my blinkers on and launched the account.
By the morning of Christmas Eve we had gone viral. One of the original tweets I put out to plug the account was being RT’d so often the #notaloneatxmas hashtag was literally spinning. By the afternoon, the RT’ing had calmed and I could see that followers of the account were starting to really chat to each other – already friendships were growing.
All I can say, is that what followed was nothing less than a small miracle; people who had come to the account because they were lonely were shaking themselves off and going out of their way to proactively contact others who were tweeting loneliness, sadness, depression, frustration etc. People stayed on the stream for hours, hand-holding others, consoling, chatting and offering company and a friendly ‘ear’ to others who were really struggling. By Christmas Day we had hit Twitter around the world and tweets were coming in in several different languages.
The number of offers of support we had from people who were not actually alone over Christmas was also incredible. These people were using time while OH’s were snoozing, or babies napping etc to just ‘be there’ for anyone wanting to chat. One follower who was home alone stayed online for the entire Christmas period – from Christmas Eve through to the morning of Boxing Day and contacted literally 100s of people. Absolutely astounding generosity of spirit.
I have shed many tears just observing the way that people have picked it up and, using their own initiative, developed it and pushed it and have, collectively, driven it to the point where NotAlone could now become a real institution. @carlplant has been invaluable already in simply taking someone’s suggestion of ‘putting us on the map’ and has created us a fantastic crowdmap for us to plot people, help offered / help needed, events, etc as well as a comments forum for future development: https://notalone.crowdmap.com/main
Others are volunteering to help with online forums, events and online support. One group of amazing people who came to us initially and separately for company is now being phenomenal in their drive to help promote us by targeting other charities, prominents and getting the word out by RT. We have already received tweeted support from politicians and from help organisations with whom we plan to form an online collaboration.
At this point in time we have 789 followers and the stream has been active around the clock, following the sun. It goes without saying then, that I will not shut the account down now just because Christmas is over. As so many have commented, loneliness and depression are not simply symptoms of the seasons, but are experienced by millions of people all year round. We will develop what we have started and we will stay open under the new name of NotAlone365. This institution will be a 24/7 service – all day, every day.
I am truly, truly overwhelmed by the warmth and fellowship of every one of the people who joined us and can only touch the surface when I say the biggest THANK YOU! to all those who have helped me turn a simple idea into something of such incredible value. I am excited to the point of popping! about what the future holds for us. If we can touch and help such a large pocket of people in 3 days, Heaven knows what more we can do if we sit down and plan, strategically how to move forward. Many of us already have ideas about where to take this and, whatever happens, move forward we WILL! We’re here for the duration.
If you are reading this and didn’t find us over Christmas, we will continue to operate under the name @NotAloneAtXmas with hashtag #notaloneatxmas until the afternoon of Friday 30th European time when I will amend the account name to @NotAlone365 with hashtag #notalone365 (this hashtag is actually already being used as a stream).
If you are reading and know someone who might benefit from the company of the friendliest group of people I have ever come across, please direct them to the account.