As an Australian living in China, there are periods of time where loneliness and isolation can overwhelm you. Despite living in a country of 1.4 billion people, in a city of between 15-25 million people, you can find yourself surrounded but alone, crowded yet isolated. There are only so many places you can find people to talk to without expecting something in return in such an environment.
A Twitter friend of mine mentioned Slowly in her timeline. I found the premise unique in the high-stress and high-speed social media world that we live in today. A platform for what I dub slow-cial media could be just what I need to slow down and appreciate the world around me.
Before long, I was talking to people all over the world. Then disaster struck — I lost my job. I had been on Slowly for just a couple of weeks at this point and had cultivated friendships with people across Asia, Europe, the Americas and Oceania. My anxiety and depression was taking a real beating every single day.
However, my penpals were with me the whole way. They were encouraging me, reminding me that there was hope in the future. Their support was critical as their pages of letters kept my spirits buoyed. While some people stopped using the app, I found new penpals. I never knew I would find kinship with people in the Middle East, in South America, in western Europe — all over the world, people were sharing their stories with me.
Likewise, I was doing my best to support others. Many people around the world are continuing to struggle with lockdowns and mental health problems associated with COVID-19. As a resident of one of the few countries that has largely dealt with the issue, I wanted people to keep healthy, keep safe, and keep well. Some of my penpals had recovered from COVID, some of them got it, and others had relatives who are, at the time of writing, dealing with it.
Others spoke openly about other concerns in their lives — the transparency of these discussions reminded me of hushed private conversations with loved ones back at home. The sort of conversation you wouldn’t dare have in public, but you would find somewhere quiet, away from everyone else to have.
There are so many opportunities to learn from each other. I have learned about unique food in the Dominican Republic, the evolving attitudes to Sharia law across the Middle East, the intricacies of different games in Europe, and East Asian rivalries that span generations and issues. These are things I never would have learned in such a short period of time.
While I have not found many penpals from my home country, I have found many from the Asia Pacific, from across Europe and Central/South America. We are bound by nothing but this app and our willingness to keep writing to each other. Every morning, I wake up to see how many letters I can write. Even over my birthday week (something I never thought I’d say), nearly every single penpal wrote to me to wish me a happy birthday. That’s more than I received on Facebook in the last two years. It says something about the relationships that we have forged.
Slowly has helped me develop long-lasting friendships with people in many many countries. Some of those friendships do not exist here any more, but exist on other platforms. The most important thing is that these friendships and relationships were formed at all. Without Slowly, I would never have met these people.
Their support has kept me strong — now that I have a new job, I am happier, healthier, and mentally stronger. Thank you Slowly!