Lately Emma has spent a lot of time texting people she has never met. First there was Jackson --he lives in town and goes to school with a friend of Emma's best friend. Next came Katie, a friend of a friend of a friend, who actually lives in England. Most recently is Emma (this girl is in her contacts as "Emma (not me)"), who is somehow a friend of Katie from England, although she lives in Chicago. They all interact through texting and Instagram.
She and Katie have set things up to Skype, but haven't actually done it yet (the time difference puts quite a crimp in their interactions). Katie does have some videos on Youtube, though, so Emma has seen her. She has Facetimed with the Emma in Chicago. I tell you this because at least I know these are real girls, around her age. I've asked her what they look like, not because I care but because I wanted to be sure they were really kids.
Friday evening, when I was bugging Emma to stop texting and help her dad build some IKEA Expedits (because she had agreed to earlier), she said she was trying to make sure Katie didn't cut herself. Yeah, that kind of cutting. I asked a few questions.
This morning Emma was already up and texting when I stumbled down the hall to take my shower. Later, after I'd showered, I stopped by again to let her know the bathroom was all hers; she was sitting very quietly on her bed. Automatically suspicious of such quiet, I asked what was wrong. It turns out that the Chicago-Emma's best friend committed suicide last night. We spoke for a few minutes about how sad that was, and how if she ever felt that sad she had to promise to come talk to me about it. She continued to text this girl while we were driving to school, and at one point she started crying, and said that she was scared --this Emma was already depressed and was talking about killing herself too, and she'd stopped answering her texts.
Okay, I'll admit it never occurred to me that dealing with friend problems would be multi-city and even multi-country at this age, but here's what's really worrying me. Is this all real? There are several different possibilities: these kids are not mentally very strong or perhaps not in supportive environments and are seriously in danger. Or these kids are just teens exaggerating things for effect. Or, perhaps, these kids are actually making all this up just to provoke an emotional response. I know, that last one is very cynical, but given the things I've heard that people have done via social media, it seems just as likely as the others.
For a 13 year old, Emma is generally pretty cheerful. Even her anxiety has been less over the last few months, and she's pleased with what she's doing at school. I don't mind at all if she's upset about a friend, or offering emotional support to a friend --but I really wish I knew whether these situations were real or not. She has IRL friends over most weekends, and she's still going strong with Kempo and writing her stories, so I'm not worried about her emotional health. But I find myself very uncomfortable dealing with these friends of friends situations. Have any of the rest of you encountered anything similar?