As we enter the closing of the year and look forward to the beginning of a new one, it is only natural to reflect on the times and events that are now behind us. For me, 2011 will be remembered as an overall extremely positive and good year. However, as I reflect back on the events that helped define this year, I must sadly mark the passing of people from the online world who are no longer with us on this plane of existence.
And yet…they are still with us in the online world.
I first noticed this phenomenon earlier this year. A friend of mine on Facebook was going on a trip that she normally had made with a friend of hers. This friend had passed away several months ago, but her Facebook page remained active as a living memorial. People were still leaving messages there as if this friend of my friend would randomly come back and start “liking” each wall post. From the last update the woman made to what was then the current time, the Facebook page remained a digital representation of part of who this woman had been. And it continued to represent her, and live, long after she had gone.
I suspect this happens often in the online world. My buddy Bruce Serven still is roaming the Twitter world. His last update is dated 2 days before he did the unthinkable. Many of his last entries on Twitter are tweets of posts I had written. There is his avatar that used to greet me every time I wrote a post. His face looks exactly the same, but his Twitter account is quiet.
Trey Pennington’s Twitter account is also still open and living. If you do a search for his name you find people quoting his blog posts and tweeting his videos, even still. Even though on his blog site it is noted that he has no events booked for now, there is no explanation for why. If you do not know what happened to this man, you may well think he merely is on hiatus from the online world. You might never guess that Trey left this world so tragically, so eerily, 3 months ago.
What do we do with these digital ghosts of ours? It almost seems cruel that they are still there on our screens, smiling in that same avatar pose. It seems cruel that some people who have automated feeds in their accounts still appear active even after they have gone silent in the offline world. And yet it’s kind of comforting too, isn’t it? To see these faces and to remember a time when we could take comfort in the fact that these great people were still with us, if not in our direct sphere of existence at least somewhere on this planet of ours.
What will we do as our online world continues to fill with these digital ghosts? Will the online world become too painful? Will the faces of our now-gone friends haunt us as we tweet and blog? Do we warn people that these folks will not be responding? Do we say why? Or do we let people meet these friends of ours and merely wonder why there is no response back? Which is less cruel? Which is more comforting?
What do you think about this?
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/naccarato/8407429/ via Creative Commons