My main concern with online friends is if they die, how would I know? If days pass without a tweet, or a status update, or a blog post, or a nudge on gchat, or an email, how would I know whether they’re on vacation, or mad at me, or taking an internet break, or DEAD?
If you were to die, or me, if you’re uncomfortable using yourself in this hypothetical equation, would you just disappear? Would people you know in real life think to notify the internet world? Because the internet world is both not at all real – these people are hypothetical beings we trust are humans and who they claim to be – and very much real. Those we meet, get to shake hands with or hug and spend real, face-to-face time with are real, but so are those we’ll never get to share space with. They’re real, you’re real, I’m real, and yet somehow, sometimes, we’re not.
Would you miss your online friends or acquaintences if they were no longer around? Probably some terribly and others not so much. I bet there is a list of handles a mile long of followers and “friends” who have dropped from the internet that you haven’t even noticed are missing. Do you know where they all are? Of course not because you didn’t even know they weren’t there.
There are some people I’d miss. They know who they are. Regular chatters and emailers and commenters and repliers. I’d notice if they weren’t around and their absence would make me horribly sad. If they were gone, for whatever reason, there would be an empty, unfillable space in the internet where they once occupied. Funny thing about the internet – it can make you care about people you’ll never really know.
And what about me? If I were to die, who would know? I know exactly who outside of the internet would know and who would care. I could sit here and make a list, definitively, of who would show up at my funeral. But internet folks? As far as they know, I may just shunning the web once again. Meanwhile, I’M DEAD. And if they ever learn that I haven’t gone pioneer, rather I’ve become one of the Recently Deceased, which ones would care? I mean, I’m sure a whole bunch of people would “internet care”, which is to say they’d race each other to be the first to tweet about it, passive aggressively compete in a Who Cares The MOST pissing contest, and the whole thing would fizzle out in a matter of hours, or however long it takes for something else tweet-worthy to come along. But how many would really, truly care? And I’m not just asking for myself; I’m asking for you, too.
With the internet, is it possible to simply…disappear? The answer, unfortunately, is yes. We can be here one day and gone the next as easily as we arrived on the internet scene in the first place. We appeared out of nowhere and, for those of us with very little overlap between on and offline, we can disappear. Just like that.