Monday, 7 November 2011
when internet friends die. do you ever find out?
Over the years we have become more and more reliant on the internet in our day-to-day lives. We use it for shopping/banking/keeping in contact with friends. We read the news, watch videos, and keep up with the gossip on our favourite celebrities.
But more and more we are using the internet to make the acquaintance of people we otherwise would never have met, through chat sites, message forums and social networking sites. As such we are able to form friendships with people beyond our previously narrower social circle.
Sometimes those friendships go on to develop into more real life friendships. I know people who have met their partners/husbands through the internet, either on chat sites or on dating websites designed specifically for the purpose. I have personally met people who I originally met on the internet and who are now close friends of mine.
But sometimes due to circumstances and/or often distance it is just not possible to physically meet up with people we meet online. And as such I guess we now find ourselves in a position where friendships are divided into two groups – our physical friends, and our internet friends.
And this is where I find myself wondering about whether having internet friend’s makes us possibly more separated. After all, if your means of communication with someone you’ve only met on the internet are limited to emails, online chat and possibly phone calls, it is, in fact, extremely easy to obliterate those people from your life, or in fact to be obliterated from theirs. All you have to do is switch off the computer after all, and then they’re gone.
Which leads me to something I have wondered about a few times, but which has come up more specifically for me recently, what happens when one of your internet friends dies? Or indeed, what would happen if you died – would someone close to you know to inform your internet friends? Indeed, would someone close to you even know who your internet friends were?
If one of your internet friends died, they would just disappear from your screen, never to be seen or heard of again, and it’s entirely possible that you would never even know they had died. After all it’s not a natural conclusion to come to, unless you had reason to believe that death was a possibility.
If I died I’m not entirely sure I would want someone close to me to announce it on twitter, or on any of the websites I frequent, but equally I do wonder if those people I have formed friendships with through the internet would ever come to learn of my demise, or whether they would in fact just decide I had left internet life for now and would eventually be back, only to forget about me in time when I didn’t return.
I think the internet is a great resource for befriending people, but I do wonder as to whether those friendships are caught in the here and now, and are volatile in the sense that we can essentially turn them on and off with the flick of a switch, and that if life takes that ability out of our hands, whether the friendships we have formed through the internet in fact are considered worthy of the same consideration in terms of informing those friends that we have perhaps passed on.