Mourning online-only friends October 25, 2016 10:41 AM   Subscribe

It's been a month of losses for MetaFilter, with three members passing away in as many weeks. This article from the Guardian seems appropriate: It turns out losing online friends feels as bad as the death of 'real life' ones.
posted by Johnny Wallflower to MetaFilter-Related at 10:41 AM (31 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

It's a good reminder that we mean more to people than we may realize, and that it's good to reach out and make connections because those connections are meaningful.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:47 AM on October 25, 2016 [33 favorites]

Open invitation to be my friend. I can't promise i'll be a great friend but friends are harder to make the older you get, or so I'm told.
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:49 AM on October 25, 2016 [27 favorites]

Thank you for sharing this. Open invitation to be my friend, too.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:21 AM on October 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

((((hugs to everyone))))
posted by infini at 12:04 PM on October 25, 2016 [6 favorites]

This is a good place to put in a plug for ActionPopulated's Reach Out To A MeFite Day post.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:09 PM on October 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

And cortex's Death and Metafilter from last month, if you haven't read it yet.
posted by naju at 12:16 PM on October 25, 2016 [27 favorites]

I often prefer my online friends to my real-world friends.
posted by maxsparber at 12:53 PM on October 25, 2016 [10 favorites]

Yeah, cortex's medium article is really good.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 12:58 PM on October 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

I had not read Cortex's piece. Now having done so, I'm tearing up yet again. Cortex, you are a true mensch. Thank you for your work here and most of all for your crystal clear empathy.
posted by Splunge at 2:49 PM on October 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am reading... thanks for this thread.
posted by Namlit at 3:03 PM on October 25, 2016

BTW, Cortex? You would be a perfect character in any Callahan's Crosstime Saloon story. In fact, I'm not completely sure that your name isn't Jake.
posted by Splunge at 3:15 PM on October 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

If I died tomorrow, I'd want MetaFilter to know this: For 12 years, this has been my near-daily stopping place and the kindred spirits I've found here have lifted my heart, educated me, offered solutions, and given me ways to be a better person in the world and at home. I am so grateful.

Most of you are, and will remain, invisible to me. That's what my kids call you, Mama's invisible friends from MetaFilter. I can't do justice to the ways that your voices are real for me, in all of their empathy and wit, or how your stories come to mind, sometimes years after I have read them. I have passed along your words of comfort and advice to my other friends. You exist for me as your best selves, and I imagine many of you as smart and kind and compassionate and funny as hell. If I don't see you for a while around here, I miss you. If I see your name black-barred in my contacts list, I notice and I feel like the site has lost something. I worry a little. I cheer when I see you again, even if you don't know it. Even if we've never met.

The deaths...a younger me didn't understand what Donne meant about how they diminish me. I understand it more now. Anitanola, jbickers, and others; they added to the world and to MetaFilter. And I am diminished in some way by losing them.

My life is so much better for my participation here, and especially for yours. Thank you.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:37 PM on October 25, 2016 [64 favorites]

I often say (when I'm referencing something I learned here), "This community I belong to was discussing..." I don't specify online because the conversations we have here are as meaningful to me as any I have. I enjoy every single one of you who take the time to add to those conversations. So yes, I'm sad when any one of you leaves us for whatever reason.
posted by agatha_magatha at 4:21 PM on October 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'll just a mix a drink for all of you, and all the departed, right now and drink to you all.
posted by vrakatar at 4:53 PM on October 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Strangely, in re cortex's piece. And I hope this isn't out of place.

I died twice. Once when I was hit by a car. And the second time when I was on the operating table for 22 hours of brain surgery and facial reconstruction. The second time I knew nothing about it. But I was told that my heart had stopped, midway through the surgery. I'm guessing that's as close to dead as I will ever be. Since then death and I have a pretty good relationship. I respect him and he remembers me. I honestly have no fear of death. In fact, I used to have a fear of the pain before death.Not anymore. I do not remember the time before I was born. But I certainly recall the pain before the surgery. In fact, the pain after the various surgeries was way fucked up. At times I wished for death.

I guess my point is, don't fear death. Don't be afraid of the darkness beyond death. Many people use religion to help with that. Good for them.

I have my way of dealing. They have theirs. Find your path and be ready. Death is not an end any more than the place you were before life was a beginning.
posted by Splunge at 5:00 PM on October 25, 2016 [12 favorites]

Open invitation to be my friend.

Only if you promise to get bathtub safety non-slip tape. Oh my, way back to lambdamoo, had a very occasional bantering acquaintanceship, it was nice to hear optimistic positive stuff, then lost track and later found out the person had slipped and fallen and died. Really very disturbing, very sad.
posted by sammyo at 7:05 PM on October 25, 2016

I remember when WolfDaddy passed. I only ever interacted with him online, and we never met in person, but when I heard he died it was kind of how I felt when Thurman Munson passed when I was a kid..but still different. It's a new world we live in and we have to figure out how to deal with that emotionally
posted by jonmc at 7:12 PM on October 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

If I ever die, y'all should know that I talk about this site and its people CONSTANTLY irl;...

Me, too. I just wish I could come up with a quick way to refer to you all when speaking with people who don't know what a "mefite" is. "This community I belong to..." doesn't exactly roll off the tongue and any mention of "online" is going to give credence to the notion that I spend too much time "on that damn computer".
posted by she's not there at 7:14 PM on October 25, 2016

I have some friends I met on the web, in 2001, an old Microsoft community. There are a lot of us who still hang around together, and meet elsewhere. I have met a couple of them, and it is so great, it is like a homecoming. Sunday I went for a drive out to the very tip of Antelope Island with one of these old friends, such a nice thing, to trespass a little to show off one of my favorite places. We visited with a farmer I also enjoy, we picked our own peppers. I treasure my online contacts, they are a major standby. At times I am annoyed I am watching my distant family on this screen for the most part, but at least we can connect though physically distant from one another. This is a very important source of comfort and continuity for many people. An island nation of many parts. Lovely.
posted by Oyéah at 9:19 PM on October 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

I don't stop by as much as I used to, and I certainly don't comment nearly as much as I did, but this place occupies a solid chunk of my "things I like" real estate in my heart, and whenever we lose a member, the pain is real even if I never really interacted with them here, let alone face to face.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:03 PM on October 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thank you for posting this, Johnny.

There is a deceased members page on the Mefi wiki. It's getting too damned long. Also, please tell someone to remember to tell MetaFilter when you die.

A friend passed away on October 4. She had an aneurysm while she was sleeping and didn't wake up the next morning. It was a complete, tragic and unexpected shock to everyone who knew her. Death hammers home the truth that we don't and can't ever know what life has in store for us. All we can do is try to enjoy the ride, and steer it a little. But I firmly believe that every moment we're given in this life is a blessing and a gift, and am grateful to be able to share this journey with you all.

As she so often does, MonkeyToes says it best: My life is so much better for my participation here, and especially for yours. Thank you.
posted by zarq at 8:21 AM on October 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

I said a lot of stuff I've been thinking about in that essay folks have linked to—and thanks for the kind words there—but it's been an odd feeling in retrospect seeing that get a little bit of attention because one thing that essay doesn't really address is the totality of what I find valuable about the community here and about getting to know so many people. There's a little more anger and frustration to that piece than is, on the balance, where I'm normally coming from, born of a bad mood and a difficult year; everything I said in there about the difficulties and the cynicism that can come into play around a member's death are true, but when I think of my relationship with MetaFilter and its community and all the folks here who I care about it's a much more positive thing, all in all. Even when talking about loss.

What I said the other day, in the thread about govtdrone's passing, cuts closer to the heart of what this place means to me, and why I think it's so good and important that we have each other here and recognize that that's a real thing, a genuine, not-imaginary, not-just-"the internet" thing.

Technology in the last couple decades has changed the nature of communication and broadened the scope of acquaintance and friendship in remarkable ways; what previously would have been an uncommon and slow and very effortful process of long-distance physical correspondence has become as familiar as breathing air for an overwhleming number of people, at a speed that by the standards of societal change is so fast that twenty years or so in we're still as a global society only now starting to more universally accept the idea that it's real, that it's not something that has to be joked about or dismissed as weird. And for all that it's still not universal, for any number of reasons, something the linked Guardian piece frames itself around.

And but so yes: I care about this place in large part because it's in a very real and absolute way made up of people, so many of whom and yet too few of whom I've had a chance to meet in person or develop a correspondence with. For a friendly but terrible-at-mingling person like me, MetaFilter has been a joy socially both as a place online to share space in a low-pressure way, and as a source of happy opportunities to meet in a bar one or another person I've already known for years. It's been a part of basically my whole adult life and it's hard to imagine what a different person I might have been with out it, without you all.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:08 AM on October 26, 2016 [16 favorites]

I was almost 29 years old (1994/95) when I first got the opportunity to play around with the Internet. I often think about who I would be today, and where I'd have gotten, if I'd been a decade younger, at minimum. Some days I feel like I lost 10 years of my productive youth when I see what y'all are capable to doing with this wondrous tool that we monkeys have built. No more beeping modems, and hey, PPP lets me see visuals and graphics!

I was a 'pioneer' in intewebs as a relationship/connection tool - a very long story short but I was interviewed by the leading tech magazine for having had my marriage arranged via the first online service, thanks to having a geek dad. That was in 1997.

Even before then, almost the first place I stumbled onto in 1995 was Good Housekeeping's bulletin boards. I went to the moderator's wedding in Philly some 4 years later, and I made close close friends who came to see me when i ended up in the US after the "Great Husband Hunt" that they all followed.

Back then, we'd laugh about being each other's axe murderer on the interwebs, and we'd hide the way we met from our "real lives", even after bonding as sisters, or attending weddings and funerals. It NEVER felt unreal, but the world judged it as weird and crazy and something socially dysfunctional. Not to us then, I was the youngest lady in that group - Ramona and Siobhan and Frankie were already in their 40s and 50s even as I was just turning 32. So you know, it wasn't all teenaged boys.

Why should we let the media's version of a popular social narrative decide for us what is real and what isn't real? who are they to judge?

We know we know each other. Those secret Quonsar presents don't just materialize from thin air. And those babies we behold and love, those marriages we attend, and the folks we have a beer with every so often, we're all here and I am so very fucking glad that this place hasn't become defunct like all the rest that Imma gonna go take a walk now.

ps. meetup in Amsterdam or the Hague on 4th Nov late afternoon or evening?
posted by infini at 9:28 AM on October 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

The real burn out was when the websites would get bought or went defunct regardless. That's why I paid up to keep this place alive. And I pay to mlkshk too. No more losing an entire communities because some rando product manager pulls the plug on you.
posted by infini at 9:30 AM on October 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

I already think of everyone on MetaFilter as my friends. I say that not in the interest of sounding open-hearted and friendly, but as a way of admitting how embarrassing it is to realize that not everyone here actually assumes that, and probably, I am presumptuous that way.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:18 PM on October 26, 2016 [10 favorites]

I'm OK with your presumption, DirtyOldTown.

And assuming reciprocity, I'm probably way too tickled to have a friend named "DirtyOldTown".
posted by she's not there at 1:39 PM on October 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

There are people I've known for 20+ years now, solely online. We keep trying to meet up, and things keep happening. The weirdest part is when they have kids, actually. You then realize that these people whose voices you've only ever heard in five- or ten-second fragments are having these wee human beings you also still haven't met in real life.

Death, yeah. Death and I have known each other since my first best friend, a cocker spaniel named Pete, passed away when I was five. I too nearly died, at 21. It's not that scary, really. It's like any other thing that happens. I do remember the pain, but had had similar and not died. I'm glad I'm still around, and don't fear death either. There's worse in life. I'll always remember what my paternal grandparents told me near the ends of their lives too: "oh honey, once you get to our age" (they were 81 and 83 at the time) "you're happy to know there will be an end to it all. We've had such full lives! You can let us go and know we're glad for it." In whole sincerity, no bitterness whatsoever, just a mix of genuine fatigue and contentment.

Wolof left similarly. He of course wanted to live longer – he hadn't hit 80 by quite a margin! – but he knew, and he accepted what life had dealt him. While also giving cancer the finger. He spread so much matter-of-fact warmth.

Anyway I'm rambling. Yes, you do all mean more than you realize. Reach out to people, it makes a difference!
posted by fraula at 2:20 PM on October 26, 2016 [7 favorites]

A longtime member of a discussion forum in my other online home, Ravelry, died recently. It really saddened me (and our group, which is quite tight and well established) even though I'd never met her in real life. We had exchanged private messages and she was a really lovely, kind person. She was the closest online friend I've had who has died, and it made me realize it's no less of a connection just because the connection was solely online.

One of her close friends posted to our group to let us know. It was revealed she had been quite shy and had just a handful of close friends IRL. But she was quite an active member of our group and had made lots of connections with other members online. It makes me grateful to know that online spaces can provide a real haven for reclusive or shy or isolated people.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:24 PM on October 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

Sorry, I didn't finish my thought. I've been visiting here for over 15 years and been a member for nearly 10, and I often think about how much poorer I'd be if I hadn't had the chance to be a part of this community. Metafilter folks are a special bunch and I am saddened when we lose a member. Monkey Toes, the Donne reference is perfect.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:30 PM on October 26, 2016

I write this as someone who participates in the furry fandom so there are a lot of people I know from meeting them in person and online and whose birth names I do not know...

... how exactly are the people we know online not people we know as somehow part of our real life? Why would anyone even think there would be a difference in how someone is affected by a loss?
posted by hippybear at 9:53 PM on October 31, 2016

8 years ago I was a mod on the forum of a local paper and we had a real troll who was carefully not violating the TOS.

I got a lot of PMs from one person who was really angry at me about the trolling and I wrote "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that"and he didn't get the 2001 reference and wondered how I'd obtained his name and thought me spooky and I had a bit of fun with him for a week before letting him in on the joke.

Then I'd get these really long e-mails from him. Stream of consciousness. It was interesting and compelling. He felt like he could tell me anything and I started to respond in kind and that went on for years after the paper switched to Facebook and it was good for both of us.

He hit a tree on his motorcycle. Took me a while to figure out the silence. Good friends are so rare, especially later in life.

posted by Mr. Yuck at 7:38 AM on November 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

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