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Random outbreak of sentimentality

I found out today that someone I vaguely knew on a messageboard - and had vaguely known for years - had died unexpectedly at the age of 50. Which was sad.

Then I got into an argument with some idiot who thought that because we'd never met the guy and didn't know his real name, we didn't have the right to be sad, or to mourn. The thing is, he really didn't seem to understand that it's possible to care about someone you hadn't met in the flesh, or even someone you hadn't interacted that much with, but who was always around, part of the background texture of your life. He thinks that you can't connect emotionally in any way with just someone's words, and seems to find it weird that you'd even think of people online as real people, or think of them at all when you're offline.

Screw him. He's wrong. But he's inspired me to let you guys know that I think about all of you, and care about all of you, even if we don't interact that much. Hell, even if I read you but you don't read me. If I see a depressed or out of character post, or you disappear unexpectedly, I'll notice and I'll care, even if I never say anything. (I should comment more, I just never know what to say when things are bad.) And when things are going well for you, it makes me happy too.

Er, yeah. Sorry about that. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

..Now, in fact. Anyone who's read posts about Steven Moffat's takeover of the top Who job should read loveandgarbage's PSA on the subject and subsequently accept my profound apologies.



May. 22nd, 2008 02:15 am (UTC)
I've been online for 20-odd years and I've probably averaged around a death or so a year in the wider circle of online acquaintances. A few suicides - some expected, some not, a few deaths from long-term or sudden illness, a few accidents, and increasingly more than the odd death from 'old age' (one of the sites I'm very much involved with is dedicated to the history of motor racing, and a lot of the people on it are the guys who made that history - so there are a lot of guys up to their 80s there. While it's marvellous that they survived the sport's dangerous years one becomes very aware of their mortality now...).

A few of the deaths really shook me up - I was talking to one online friend who suffered from MS the day before she took her own life. There was no obvious indicator that she was going to do it - but she was having more and more 'bad days'. Her partner wasn't expecting it, none of her online friends were expecting it... but I still felt bad about not having spotted the non-existent evidence for years. A couple of deaths from natural causes have been people I was always going to get round to meeting 'sometime'. Sometime is never good enough.

There was another death recently that shook me; although it was someone I'd never actually met, I fell in with a fairly successful project writing about racing history via internet friends in the mid 90s, and found myself credited alongside one of the alltime great driver/engineer/journalists. That wouldn't've happened without t'internet, and Paul was already a hero of mine beforehand. He became even more of one after I felt that faint connection to him - my writing published and credited along with his. Paul was an exceptional man, still test-driving the world's most exotic and fastest cars into his late 80s - and when he died (after never quite recovering from his last accident a few years back) it hit me very hard.

In some ways taking an abstract view of the way the net connects people makes the disappearances even more poignant - you often think of how someone who's dead connected you into another part of your social circle, and you think of how that departure changes your life, changes the lives and interactions of everyone else who connected with them.

And of course online you leave more epitaphs behind in the virtual world than the real one.

(I have this terrible fear that my last visible net posting will be a link to a foreign company that has a name that sounds vaguely like a rude word in English. Should I shuffle off this mortal coil unexpectedly, could someone please hack my LJ and post at least a decent curry-house review?)
May. 22nd, 2008 02:24 am (UTC)
...and, to be fair, there's been the odd Internet death I've been less than distraught about. But that's the uk.* hierarchy for you. ;)
May. 24th, 2008 01:30 am (UTC)
I don't frequent many forums with a lot of older people on them, which I guess is why it hasn't happened as often to me. It has happened once or twice before, I think, but not a lot.

Ever since I was a kid I've made social networking graphs, although it's only just occurred to me to call them that. But I'd sit and draw out on huge bits of paper how everyone I knew was connected. And I can specify a couple of pivotal meetings which changed the course of my whole social life. In fact one of them was meeting an ex-boyfriend (in a computer lab, naturally); almost all my friends now can be traced back to people I met through him, although I'm not in touch with him at all now.

I'm not sure if I like the idea of leaving so much of a presence behind in the virtual world - I think I do, but it's also a bit disturbing. And yeah, I do have a bit of the "Those would have been TERRIBLE last words" fear myself, heh.


bad wolf
Notes from extinction

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