We Just Disappear

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.

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20 thoughts on “We Just Disappear

  1. I am so glad that I am not the only one he thinks about this stuff. Also what would happen to my blog readers. How would they find out. Would they care? When I was ill and in the hospital with a bad heart 2 years ago my husband updated everyone on facebook.

    The one thing that creeps me out even more is the people that have passed that still have active Facebook pages.

  2. A really thought provoking post, Jen.

    I too, often think the same thing. I feel like I’ve made some really close connections with people via blogging, and I wonder what would happen if they suddenly stopped posting or vice versa.

    I guess it’s the same as celebrities, or public figures – when they pass on, or something terrible happens to them, people mourn, because it touches something deep within.

    I think the same goes for bloggers, right?

  3. First off, I haven’t been *here*, like on your blog itself rather than just reading in Google Reader in far too long – it’s beautiful!

    Second, I think about this stuff. I sometimes realize there was that person that I used to talk to on twitter and where the hell are they now? Or the blog posts that used to come up in my Reader, but now they don’t…where are they? Is the feed broken? Did they just stop blogging? How am I supposed to keep track? If you’re not immediately in front of me on my screen, I’m not even aware of your presence or absence.

    These online relationships are interesting and different and vacillate between fleeting and deepening.

    I guess if something happened to me there’s enough people online I know in ‘real life’ that would let others know if they cared to know. I don’t have any plan for a farewell post or anything though. Should I leave my blog and passwords to my family in my will? I’m not a person who plans for death as I don’t think I’ll be cognizant of what is happening after my death.

    PS: I’d care! 🙂

  4. I WAS having a good day.

    I was fortunate enough to talk with you before the post went out and glad to say I would be devestated.

    And I think if anyone that blogs and has developed these kind of friendships..and don’t think about this from time to time, I have to question their character.

    Don’t die. Work would suck even that much more. Get me?

    Nerd.

  5. I’m pretty sure my mom would miss my posts, but that’s only because she’s been in a couple of them lately and I think she’s starting to get a little full of herself. Other than that, I’m not sure, but it’s something I do think about. Well, I don’t think about the physical death as much as I do the death of my online presence.

    With the mass amount of information out there and the number of “followers” and whatever people have, I often feel like I’m just floating among a huge crowd of people and I wonder if I would be missed or simply forgotten. I suppose that does transfer to real life…damn. Now I’m depressed.

    At any rate, I missed you when you went to Ireland and I do have some close connections that I get worried about when they go silent for a few days. I consider them friends, so I follow up and intrude. I would most certainly miss them a lot.

  6. WE’ve already talked about this, but I want to add.

    I’ve been struggling with what these relationships I’ve made over the last 18 months on the innernets with people. Are they real? Should i worry about them when they’re sick/taking a break/sad/ etc…?

    I think the answers are Hell Yes to all of those questions. I just hope people feel the same about me. I know that sounds needy and dumb.

    Great post….I’m glad you;re alive. Really.

  7. Well, I would miss you.
    I can’t say I would miss you as much as I miss my mother, or my late husband, but I would miss you. I never think the words “track pants” without thinking about you.

    But we’re no replacement, we shadows at the keyboard. If you’re feeling at all ‘temporary’ in this world, get your ass to someone a short drive or walk from the emergency. That’s either an order from a bossy-boots stranger or a request from an internet ‘friend’, which ever is more likely to get it done.

  8. I think about this stuff, too! And, yes, I would totally miss you and wonder where the fuck you were.

    Since I don’t have a blog, I think I would easily pass from people’s memories. However, and this is embarrassing, since I have come to “know” and love the people (including you!) who write for MamaPop, etc., I have left instructions to my BFF to let y’all know I died. Morbid and self-absorbed? Maybe and probably. But, I think about death probably more than I should.

    PS: I would comment more on your blog more but I absolutely despise your blog platform. It is not at all compatible with the iPad. Sorry.

  9. I’ve had the odd occasion to happen upon the Posthumous post and I am always creeped out by it. It’s like the horror movie #1 Rule: Do not go outside alone. (don’t write about your death)

    And..yes I have actively searched out those online people that seem to have disappeared just to see if they are still alive and kickin’ it hard.

    So until I see the PPost, I’ll just assume people are taking a break. It keeps me happy and non-panicky.

  10. I often wonder about this too.

    I have but one link between my internet persona (because of course my real name isn’t Nikki) and my real self. And she often disappears or ignores the cyber world for months… But I do know that from reading other’s blogs and following them on FB or Twitter I develop something with them, and do grow a sense of concern for them (like A Vapid Blonde – gawd I miss reading her!) and most times when I feel that this sense of affection is one way I want to go out and let the person know my true self so they’ll love me just as much! And then I start to feel like an absolute creeper!

    If I did happen to meet in real life my cyber peeps, would I even like them? Or want to hang out with them?

    But, I also wonder if someday ALL relationships will be mainly internet based… I know its already the case with my mother, we even speak via the internet (thank you Skype!)

  11. I often think about the people who i started blogging with and just disappeared. We all started together and used to email and chat regularly and then poof! They were gone.

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