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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Becoming closer to distant strangers via the web

Rika Kayama

I came up with a phrase, "Distant strangers instead of nearby relatives." Perhaps many people would correct it to, "Nearby strangers instead of distant relatives," which is a commonly known phrase. However, I am indeed referring to, "distant strangers." In the age of the internet, the distance between fellow humans has changed considerably, compared to days gone by.

    Last week, a friend of mine asked me, "Will you come to a commemoration event for citizens who have died in Aleppo in Syria?" However, I turned down the invitation, replying, "Sadly, I do not know much about the situation in Syria." To which my friend responded, "Same as me. But as soon as I read their online messages, I was overwhelmed."

    As the fighting between Syrian government forces and opposition groups intensifies, news that government forces are killing innocent civilians has spread across the internet. The situation remains dangerous in Syria, and most of the media has left the country. Nevertheless, the existence of social networking services means that civilians in Syria are able to convey messages to other countries using tweets, photographs and videos.

    Many of the messages are desperately sad: "I am probably about to be killed," and "please don't forget me." As my friend watched these tragic messages, she felt as though her close friends and relatives' lives were in danger. Furthermore, she felt that if a person close to her were to actually die, she would definitely go to the commemoration.

    Naturally, we have never met these people in Aleppo, and it is uncertain whether we would actually go there. We might never even have heard of the city during our entire life. However, as the internet has developed, we are able to grasp what is going on in places like Aleppo, and know how the people there are feeling due to very real photographs and video footage.

    It can be said that this is a wonderful thing. However, it also means that there are more occasions that cause us to feel pain. In this kind of world, it seems that miserable tragic events are happening everyday.

    After being struck by the warmth of my friend as she went off to the commemoration for the "distant strangers," I wanted to say to her, "I hope that you do not become too overwhelmed." Look after yourself, be kind to those around you, and also don't forget "distant strangers." No matter how much energy you may have, it might still not be enough to survive the internet era. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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