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Author Topic: A Rumination on Death and the Internet
UrbanReindeer
Deck the Malls


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Yesterday, I logged on to one of my favorite internet games. Immediately, I got a tell from one of my online friends, "Did you hear about [well-known player's name]."

"No, what about her?" I replied.

"She apparently had pneumonia for the last six weeks and passed away due to complications resulting in a heart attack. There's a thread on the forums."

Sure enough, I head over to the forums and there's a note from someone who knew her IRL. All the information is there, including the funeral home to send condolences to.

And I miss her. Already. I had just seen her online a day or two ago, but hadn't said hi. Last time I spoke to her in-game was probably a week ago, and she never mentioned being sick. Naturally, because there's a limited number of ways you can make your in-game character appear, I saw someone dressed just like her and got all excited for a minute thinking she was okay.

Some people (like my mother - ahem), don't understand how I can miss someone I never knew. "Did you meet her? Did you even know her name?" No, and no. I knew she was married, had kids, and was older than me. Now I know she was 50, lived in Texas, and had 4 kids. I expect to see her every time I log in still. Hanging around the area of the game she frequented is weird and depressing. "But you didn't really KNOW her", my mother repiles.

I don't think my mother's being fair to me. Internet communities are real, to those of us who frequent them. This woman was almost 20 years older than me. Would I have socialized so much with her in real life?

Sorry that this is random and disjointed, but it's early for me. And, I'm depressed. I assume, if any of you passed away unexpectedly, you'd have online communities you'd want notified. I assume some of you have had online friends disappear or die on you. All random thoughts are appreciated.

Ironically, I still don't know her real name. all condolences are being sent c/o her eldest daughter. I still only know her by her login name and the nickname we gave her.

Lub ya Roustie. Have a good docktart with whoever's up there.

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"He feeds the sparrows of the field, but He doesn't sit there and cram worms into their mouths." -- Mouse

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Sara at home
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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Your mother must not be a big internet user. I consider some of my internet friends every bit as close as some of my RL friends. And the death of someone known only online can be every bit as real and saddening as the death of someone I knew in real life.

As in real life, there are circles of online friends. The degree of reaction to a death is related to the circle you share with the person. It really is no different. In some cases, online friends who you may never have seen in real life can be closer and more important that some in RL.

And just as in RL, the unexpected death of someone considered to be "too young to die" can be even more upsetting.

Your emotions do not seem to me to be the least bit strange.

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Assume that all my posts will be edited at least once. Dyslexic -- can't spell, can't type, can't proofread.

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Mickey Blue
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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Yea, I've often thought I should stipulate to whomever I'm with (either SO and/or parents) that if I die somebody should send a pre-made message to snopes for me (not that I've pre-made a message either, I guess I procrastinate on things like that).

And yea I guess a part of me does feel like you guys are all little computer elves who just hang out in there, but when I think about it more its almost amazing to think that all over the world people are talking in the same resonably small group and I have gotten to know them (including things I may not have wanted to know) fairly personally.

Heck people here know more about me then my friends and my parents do, at least in some areas, and I go here for advice quicker then anywehre else from subjects to relationship (or lack there of) advice, to finding out the best way to cook an egg.

I do think many online communities are sort of just places where you read and post on forums, but some are quite different, and this is a good example of that.

Sorry, not trying to make everyone all teary eyed [Smile]

-Mike

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"All people are responsible for the good that they didn't do"

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Beechwill
I Am Curious, Yellowtail


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Sorry to hear about your friend, UrBOON. I know a lot of people don't understand the dynamics of strictly online friendships and acquaintances - I don't have an online community like that (no offense, Snopes), but I do know that if you feel a person is part of your experience, then you'll feel the loss, and you have every right to support and sympathy from your friends and family.

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"Death is not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate."
-Ambrose Bierce

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remigo
Deck the Malls


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I'm terribly sorry Renewal. And your mother is really not being understanding. When I was weeping on Sat because I'd heard my ex's grandmother had died, my father started yelling at me. He lost his best friend when they were in their twenties, and both his parents over the course of the years - apparently that is grief-worthy, and I had no reason to cry.

Sorry, that was a hijack...

Yes, online friends matter too. In fact, as the dear Mickey Boo said above - online friends might know even more about you than your RL peeps. Because we don't really *know* each other, we have no reason to present a "face" - online, we can be more honest, more open than we can in RL.

quote:
Internet communities are real, to those of us who frequent them.
I think many of us here will know exactly what you mean.

My sympathies to you.

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If you don't cry it isn't love
If you don't cry then you just don't feel it deep enough

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Four Kitties
Layaway in a Manger


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You might try explaining it to your mother as being similar to losing a penpal, learning about the death of someone who moved away after first grade but with whom you've kept up a correspondence. You may not know that person today IRL, but it certainly is not unusual to be hurt by the death of a personality you know.

I don't think I said that very well -- I hope you can figure it out. And you have my sympathies for the loss of your friend, RL or not!

Four Kitties

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If swimming is so good for your figure, how do you explain whales?

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ThistleSoftware
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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I would be sad if I learned that someone from Snopes had died, and I've never met any of you IRL. It's like a celebrity you feel a personal attachment to dying, or as 4K said, a penpal. Internet friends can be very important in one's support network, and internet friendship can often lead to in-person friendship.

On a related note, two different people I have been very close to have died of pneumonia-related complications. One, my grandmother, was very old and in otherwise poor health so it's not that surprising. The other was a friend who was in his mid 20s and healthy. Strange how a disease that many people survive can be fatal for an unlucky few.

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Officially Heartless

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LeaflessMapleTree
The twelve shopping days 'til Christmas


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quote:
I would be sad if I learned that someone from Snopes had died, and I've never met any of you IRL.
I'd been meaning to ask (and hesitating somewhat in fear of bringing up sad memories) if this has ever happened on the ULMB.

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"For me, religion is like a rhinoceros: I don't have one, and I'd really prefer not to be trampled by yours. But it is impressive, and even beautiful, and, to be honest, the world would be slightly worse off if there weren't any."
-Silas Sparkhammer

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frogpond
Jingle Sales


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quote:
Originally posted by MapleLeaf:
quote:
I would be sad if I learned that someone from Snopes had died, and I've never met any of you IRL.
I'd been meaning to ask (and hesitating somewhat in fear of bringing up sad memories) if this has ever happened on the ULMB.
I tend to wonder when someone suddenly stops posting without explanation. If a poster's family and friends aren't aware of the person's connections to an online community to notify them, it would be likely no one would ever be aware. [Frown]

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So many books, so little time.

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Signora Del Drago
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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I'm sorry for the loss of your friend. *hug*

Several years ago, I would have had an attitude similar to, but not quite the same as, your Mother's. There are a few celebrities that I love and it hurt when they died. Perry Como is one. I grew up listening to his music, starting at the age of five. Dan Fogelberg and Jerry Lewis, to name a couple, are still alive. One has cancer and the other is eighty years old, so chances are I will outlive them, and it will hurt when one of them dies. You might ask your Mother if there is anyone like that in her life. If so, it will help her to understand.

I've only had a computer for 3+ years. I felt a little strange when I realized that I cared about a person I had never met in real life. She is a member of a small message board I moderate. I have since met her and her Mother and consider her to be my adopted granddaughter and her Mother to be my friend. They love me, too. I just wish we lived nearer each other. I was a tad embarrassed to tell my daughter about her until my daughter told me about an on-line friend of hers. Anyway, we were visiting my daughter in Columbus, GA and stopped in Montgomery, AL on the way home to meet my young friend. It was great! We've known each other in real life for a little over two years, now.

There are several people I've become fond of here at snopes. It is a very real feeling, and I'm sure I'd like these people in real life and would feel bad to learn something had happened to one of them.

I tell you all of these things, not to draw attention away from your very real pain, but in the hopes that something here will give you a way to better explain to your Mother. I'm sure she doesn't mean to just brush it off - she simply doesn't understand.

I hope you feel better before long. *another hug*

ETA: I started typing this and had to stop, so I was kind of spanked by ThistleS about the celebrity thing.

Also, I have wondered about a couple of snopesters who have stopped posting but, like MapleLeaf, didn't want to think they might have died or to ask about it. frogpond, I told my daughter to notify a person on the other board if I die or am in the hospital for an extended period. Maybe I'd best tell her about snopes.com, too! [Smile]

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"This air we're breathing. Oxygen, isn't it?"~I’mNotDedalus, impersonating Vincent D’Onofrio.|"Sometimes trying to communicate can be like walking through a minefield."~wanderwoman
"Give people a break. It's not easy doing a life."~Joshua Halberstam

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Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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I know the feeling. I was just shocked when Gowenna (founder of Sharereactor, which recently reopened after some difficulties under new management) died in a car accident. I never met her, yet it hit me like a slap in the face.

If people can grieve and cry over Steve Irwin, a person they have only watched passively on TV, I don't think it's strange to feel sorrow over someone one has interacted with online, sometimes for a long time.

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/Troberg

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FrogFeathers
Grandma Got Run Over By a Gift Card


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I'm sorry to hear about your friend.

My mom treats my online friends the same way. I've only met a few IRL. I've never met LittleDuck and she's like my sister. I've known her nearly from the moment I've been online (3 years this December). She's actually the one who convinced me to join this board.

I help mod other boards and I have quite a few friends on those boards I'd be terribly upset to lose.

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"Is it ME? Am I a MAGNET for these idiots?"~Pearl Forrester MST3K
Die-Hard Engineers, Big Red One my Dad's website
"Must be a 'snopes' thing..." ~my entire family when I try to explain something.

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LittleDuck
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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I didn't do it...

Losing FF would be worse to me than losing my IRL sister (who I haven't seen in more than 2 years).

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"Silly customer, you cannot hurt a Twinkie." -Apu (The Simpsons)

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Lainie
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by Signora Del Drago:
There are a few celebrities that I love and it hurt when they died. [snip] You might ask your Mother if there is anyone like that in her life. If so, it will help her to understand.

My mother adored David Niven. When he died, I sent her a sympathy card. She still talks about that.

UR, has your mother ever had the experience of knowing someone just through phone contact, but speaking to them often? That's another analogy that might help her understand.

Ultimately, though, she may just never get it. And that's frustrating, but it's not really important. You know what your online friend meant to you, and it doesn't matter if anyone else understands it. But many of us do.

My sympathies.

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How homophobic do you have to be to have penguin gaydar? - Lewis Black

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Zorro
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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This point, about online friends, was brought home to me last month as I prepared to give birth. All of my online friends asked me to text them, email them, or have my husband post on various messageboards for me when I gave birth. I ended up texting a few from my cell phone (they were allowed in the maternity ward) and they spread the word for me. (Hubby and I personally called our RL friends. [Wink] )

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"Seize the day! Make your lives extraordinary!"
-John Keating, "Dead Poets Society"

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mrs.hi-c clown fishies
Happy Holly Days


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quote:
Originally posted by Signora Del Drago:

Also, I have wondered about a couple of snopesters who have stopped posting but, like MapleLeaf, didn't want to think they might have died or to ask about it. frogpond, I told my daughter to notify a person on the other board if I die or am in the hospital for an extended period. Maybe I'd best tell her about snopes.com, too! [Smile]

*Snip*

Not trying to depress anyone, but...

The names escape me at the moment, but there have been a few snopesters who have left this world for the next. I believe the group was notified by a relative, or it was posted by another snopester who knew the person IRL.

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This song has no title...just words and a tune.

Instant Hi-C--Just add water...

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Jenn
Layaway in a Manger


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quote:
Originally posted by MapleLeaf:
I'd been meaning to ask (and hesitating somewhat in fear of bringing up sad memories) if this has ever happened on the ULMB.

There was a poster named Bryan Knowles who passed away in 2001 after a battle with cancer. He had kept us updated, so it wasn't really a surprise, and when he finally passed his wife, Lou, let us know. I remember one of his very last posts was worrying about the future of his wife and two small boys. Cards and emails were sent, Lou read all of them aloud to Bryan and shared with us that they made him smile.

Megaira had organized a Paypal account for us to contribute to a little trust fund for Lou and the boys. There was a memorial thread, snopes put up an RIP banner for a little while, and we had a sort of virtual wake in the chatroom one evening.

Sad, yes. But better to remember than to forget.

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"You're the opposite of troll. It's a compliment!"

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ChickyBee
Deck the Malls


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I am a lot closer to some online friends than offline friends. I've met some, just chatted on the phone to others and exchanged letters with yet others. And I consider each and every single one of them my friends.

The Rooster and I met through IRC and we've got a standing agreement to notify various communities should anything happen.

The penpals view is the same one my father takes. When I ever so cautiously mentioned that I'd met the Rooster through a chat room, he thought about it and decided he'd rather me bring home someone I'd met chatting on the Internet over someone I'd picked up while drunk at a nightclub. (But my Dad is kinda cool like that)

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So many people are hung up on achievements. What did you do today? What are you planning? Sometimes, just getting through the day is an achievement in itself.

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FuzzDuckie
Happy Holly Days


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Wow... Condolences.

Yes I've been throught that too. A small group of people I know through another board (well we met on one board- that one shut down so we created our own small group elsewhere). One of our friends died last year. She was ill for a long time but we didn't quite expect it. I only knew her through the internet for the last- hm...I guess over 7 years now. She always sent all of us Christmas cards and gifts- I still have a few of them.

I'd still be upset if lost others from that group as well as from another forum I help moderate. Same for here. I've also experienced hearing about other members of several of my YahooGroups passing away but I'm not as close to many members there as the YGroups are more for support than...entertainment.

Ironically I have better contact with my internet friends than I do with my old college friends!

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Clever Waste of Time Invasion IV
An unique Riddle adventure.
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Purple Hell- Riddle Tools

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LittleDuck
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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The fact is that the world is "smaller" more now than ever. The internet is like a giant virtual building. We all work or go to class or hang together. The difference is that our physical bodies aren't there (and sometimes that might be a good thing). Some people don't understand because they don't spend time on the 'net or on messageboards (or in chats, what have you).
Sometime around the end of 1994, beginning of 1995 my sister got a computer and was the first in the family online. To me then it was a huge mystery. My experience with computers to that point had been Basic (literally). When my sister met a guy online in 1995, my family was pretty open minded though cautious. This guy is my BIL and they have been together for 11 years. I met my own SO online 6 years ago. My brother met his online as well.

We no longer live in a world where we have to go someplace we may not feel comfortable in order to meet people. UrBOO, you may want to take some time to show your mom some of the places you hang out online (snopes for instance). Show her the kind of "family" atmosphere. She still may not understand but you never know. Meanwhile, assure yourself you're not in the minority AFA your feelings.

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"Silly customer, you cannot hurt a Twinkie." -Apu (The Simpsons)

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UrbanReindeer
Deck the Malls


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Thank you everyone for your kind words.

No, my mom doesn't spend much time online. She shops, she looks up movies, and ironically she has a Yahoo! personal ad, but she believes games (except perhaps for solitaire and Texas Hold 'Em) are total wastes of time for anyone over the age of 17. My dad was an internet geek from the first direct-dial BBS, he gets it.

I pointed out to my mother that I see the school crossing guard twice a day, 5 days a week. We say "hi", "buenos tardes" and "so glad it's finally cooling off!" I don't know his name either. By her definition, I can be said to "know" him. Now compare this to people online I talk to every single day. I know a lot more about most of them than I do about the crossing guard!

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"He feeds the sparrows of the field, but He doesn't sit there and cram worms into their mouths." -- Mouse

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terralioness
Jingle Bell Hock


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Sorry to hear about this, UR.

There's only one other board I really post to; there I've met a lot of the posters in real life, including my current SO and roommates. There was a teenage poster who was sort of the mascot; he often trolled, trying to wreck the boards for fun (granted, he wasn't the only one) and many people considered him annoying. He also, though, got to know many other posters over IM, and frequently posted his drawings and 3D art he was working on.

A couple of people who were friends with him on MySpace noticed a slew of RIP postings. He drowned, sort of a freak accident. His friend tried to save him but was too late.

The community was hit pretty hard. A few RL friends of his found their way to his RIP thread and posted their appreciation. Two things made it especially difficult: first, the fact that he was so young; second, the fact that some people in the forum had sort of bullied him in the past. It's sad that it took his death for a lot of people (including, I guess, me) to realize what he had contributed.

His last post was something to the effect of "i love you guys and think about you all the time." And that still gets me a little teary whenever I think about it.

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"I never liked Hemingway."
"I never liked you."

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UrbanReindeer
Deck the Malls


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In an update, we held an in-game memorial service for her that was attended by more than 100 people from different servers, and broadcast on a game-affiliated internet radio station.

Since it's a pirate game, we all donated to buy the game's biggest ship, which will be owned by the radio station. We re-christened the vessel after her.

Yesterday, her eldest daughter logged into the game forums and posted the obituary notice, which mentioned "her large community of online friends". Half the guest book entries are from people in-game.

At least it wasn't just me. A lot of people are going to miss her an awful lot.

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"He feeds the sparrows of the field, but He doesn't sit there and cram worms into their mouths." -- Mouse

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