Earlier tonight, I read this article. It dealt with a woman whose high school best friend had died, yet her facebook page lived on. It got me thinking about how easy it is anymore to discover shocking news about people who passed through your life. I’ve found out via the internet about a classmate’s death, the death of an old friend’s mom, even the murder of a guy who had a crush on me back in the day. It never stops being shocking, but the ease with which we can find these things out simultaneously desensitizes us to the loss and lets us rediscover it and revisit it again and again.
Way back in time, before the internet, these stories never even reached our ears. The person would be a fleeting, “I wonder whatever happened to so-and-so” that would quickly dissipate with no real way to find out. Now, three clicks and we’re staring in horror at their 5 year old obituary. Not saying if we’d known at the time, we’d honestly have done anything about it, but the shock that it was so long ago and you had no idea can stun a person.
And then there’s the Facebook memorials. I’ve read stories about the online footprint of those who have died, the explicit instructions to erase this photo, that blog, to close down a facebook wall. And then there’s the polar opposite: those whose families didn’t even know about their online lives, have no way of closing those accounts, or leave them open as a tribute. If you were “friends” with someone who passed on, the sudden appearance of mutual friends leaving comments on their wall can appear in your news feed and remind you that your friend is gone.
Along the lines of online voyeurism, I have to admit that I have discovered online that a guy I had a “thing” with back in the day is now a registered sex offender. That people I knew have had custody battles, denied parental lineage, had an abundance of traffic tickets? It’s so easy to discover that people you once knew have gone down the wrong path. Maybe it’s just me, and I can admit that I spent some of my adolescent years living in the self-proclaimed “Meth capital of the world”. That doesn’t mean I did the stuff, just means a higher-than-average number of people I once knew have probably headed down a road most of us don’t understand.
So, what am I getting at? I don’t know. I sympathize with the author of the initial story, and feel like this kind of thing will happen with increasing frequency as generations raised online age. Grieving will take a whole new path-one that’s twisty, more involved, and makes you confront what people meant to you. It’s hard realizing you’re at the age where friends, acquaintances, and even parents of friends pass away with such frequency you get immune to the sting of loss. It blows my mind when I realize how many people I’ve known who are gone. And as I type this, I just learned of a child I watched while working in a daycare in high school who passed away today. It never ends. So hug the ones you love tonight? That sounds so cliche. Maybe it should go farther. Maybe you should do that, AND make sure those people who once had influence in your life know they mattered. I regret things I didn’t do far more than those I attempted and failed in a blaze of glory. So hey, you-I love you. If you’re reading this, if you’ve ever commented on a blog, been a friend in any way, you matter. And I appreciate and value your input. If anything ever goes wrong, contact me. I’m here to listen.