Valerie Pitaluga is a Quad Wife who lives in Florida
As a wife and mom, my mind is constantly running, rapidly alternating between topics in a seemingly never-ending loop. One of the topics I frequently go back and forth on is social media and its role in modern day society. Some days, social media feels a lot like middle school - and my middle school memories were some of the worst of my life: cliquey, isolating, and downright embarrassing moments abound as I reflect on those years.
Other days, I think about how I met my now-husband after all of our mutual friends flooded Facebook with his pictures shortly after the car accident in which he suffered a Spinal Cord Injury. I also think about Accessible Vacations (@accessiblevacations on Instagram), the passion project he and I started two-and-a-half years ago to share about our travel and family life and all the wonderful friends and opportunities we’ve encountered through that venue.
Sometimes social media can feel like an isolating place with the same handful of well-known SCI personalities on the receiving end of seemingly never-ending coverage. Ironically, these very well-known SCI personalities simultaneously ignore members of the SCI community who are desperately seeking connection by messaging them. I know because I’ve been on the opposite side of the “send” button on many occasions.
Fortunately, for every ignored message, there are many more answered messages, from the likes of @bringingupbabe’s mama, Chelsie Hill, Wes Hamilton, Eric Legrand, Ally Grizzard, LeAnne Lavender, and Aldo Amenta. Together they have almost 400k followers but individually they represent wives, moms, athletes, fashionistas, and designers who just so happen to also be members of this most unfortunate club that none of us wanted to be a part of. They answer hundreds of messages from people like you and I who have questions about all things marriage, parenthood, and lifestyle with SCI. They stand for all the things we hope to emulate on our own page: perseverance, strength, courage, creativity, and compassion, just to name a few. They understand that, while competition is a healthy part of life, life itself is not a competition, it’s about relationships.
My favorite social media pages, like The Reeve Foundation and WAGS of SCI, don't concern themselves with amassing the largest possible following but rather focus on reaching and connecting with their followers in the trenches to figure out how to best serve them. These organizations understand the ‘business’ we’re all in is inherently community-based. They recognize that everyone living with SCI knows something they can share with others and everyone is worth listening to and learning from.
To end this, I’d like to challenge you to practice gratitude. Make a list of your ‘tribe’, the people or organizations who helped you get to where you’re at right now. Send these people a note, email, or mention them on social media to remind them how grateful you are for their support and guidance. I’d also like to encourage you to always aim to give a little more than you take from your tribe and to make every interaction reciprocal. Because SCI is hard, but it’s darn near impossible to get through alone. So embrace your community, band together, form partnerships, and learn from one another. After all, we rise by lifting others.