Google+ Adventures of a Southern Gentleman: Absent Friends

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Absent Friends

Your friends list, sometimes you take it for granted.   When I look at mine, I see how it's grown in the past few months with new friends I've met and a few old ones that have finally taken the plunge and friended me.  

Since the first time I logged into Second Life, my policy on the friends list has been simple, I generally accept friend invites from anyone who offers as long as they've at least engaged me in conversation before hand, I figure it doesn't hurt to accept the friend offer of a newbie and I think goes a long way toward keeping them in Second Life when they find acceptance when they're new.   Odds are they'll clean me off their friends list eventually as they gain experience.   And the second part of my policy?   I don't offer friendship myself, unless asked to do so, I let the other person decide if they want to do it.   I figure if they're interested in being able to contact me and knowing when I'm on-line, they'll friend me, otherwise it's no biggie.

Sometimes I just look at my friends list and note people who've dropped off, mostly it's people who've friended me when they were new and I've never talked to since, occasionally it's someone I consider a friend who has for whatever reason decided to take me off their friend list.   There's one or two on there who I don't see log in any more and I wonder what they're up to, if they're done with Second Life or just seldom log in. 

The majority of my friends list are acquaintances of various levels of friendship, there are a fair number on there that I'd be very concerned about if they were to drop off or quit logging in, a select few very good friends that I'd be really worried about.   And there is one in particular that I'd be utterly devastated if anything happened to.

During the week leading up to the 4th of July holiday here in the U.S., something happened that drove home to me the fragility and uncertainty of life and made me think of the group of friends that I have made that I only have contact with the Internet.   That one special person on my friends list, one who is more important to me (though I don't think she realizes it) than anyone else in the world with the exception of my kids, disappeared abruptly.   We were in Second Life, it was late and she'd been having computer problems so when she poofed and didn't return I didn't think much of it, I just went to bed.   And when she didn't return the next day, I figured computer or Internet problems were keeping her off, since she would have mentioned if something was going to keep her away.   And as the days passed, I started to wonder if it was more than just Internet or computer problems and began to worry.   Our relationship is entirely based in Second Life for reasons I won't get in to, so I had no way to find out what was going on but I knew that something was wrong, you know that feeling you get when there's something not quite right with that someone you care about and then you get the phone call that confirms the feeling?

Early the following week, I woke to find an IM from her.   There had been a bad car accident, she had been unconscious in the hospital for several days and had just gotten out a few days before and wasn't up to logging in until then, and even now wasn't able to be on for long.  A mixture of emotions washed over me, relief to finally know what was going on, worry for her physical well being, and a very pointed sense of what she means to me.  

It has set me to thinking this past week about the relationships we build on the Internet and in these virtual worlds.   If I were to die tomorrow, commuting to work, would my friends be left wondering what ever happened to Sougent? 

I've left no instructions, made no preparations covering the possibility that something might happen to me and I might not personally be able to let anyone know what was going on.   Before there was an Internet, before there were virtual worlds, if something happened to you, your friends and family generally found out by word of mouth, you know that phone call in the night, or reading the local obituary.   But now in this modern world one can make friends from around the globe and only have contact with them through the Internet using e-mail or chat or Skype or a virtual world like Second Life.  

Do you ever think about your on-line friends and h0w they will know if something were to happen to you?    Do you care?   Do they?  

We spend so much time hiding our real life identities because we're afraid of being stalked or harassed but are the friends we make in Second Life or on the Internet any less a friend than one you might have in Real Life?   Don't they deserve to know and if necessary to mourn, just like a real life friend would?

I think, for myself, the answer is yes.   I don't have a lot of friends in Real Life, it's always been hard for me to make friends in the real world, it has been much, much easier to make them on-line and I value the ones I have made in Second Life and elsewhere.

I spent a week not knowing, of wondering if the last time we were together was the last.   I don't want to do that to anyone.   Maybe we're just casual friends, maybe we're good friends, maybe you don't care and that's fine.   But for those that do, I know that I'm going to take steps to see that if something were to happen to me, whether it be an abrupt illness or injury, or death, no one has to wonder whatever happened to Sougent.  


nikadreamscape said...

That post was really touching.. thats so sad that you were going through that week of not knowing. I hope your friend recovers soon.

I have had similar thoughts, myself. Several years ago I was a part of an online community and someone from that group -was- killed in a car accident. Somehow, be it through email, a phone call, or whatever means, a couple of her online friends were made aware, and able to spread the sad news. I always wondered how many times that does happen.. where family members aren't aware of a persons online friends and family, and so that person just kind of disappears, never to be heard from again. For that reason, I -always- let some of my online friends know if I expect to be offline for more than a couple of days. And I will usually ask around, if I notice someone has been missing for awhile.

And yes, I have wondered what would happen if something happened to me. My parents know I'm very involved in Second Life, that I have a podcast, and a lot of very close friends. But do they know how to reach any of those people? I don't think so. Maybe I should change that.

Jacek said...

There have been several occasions where I've thought about what would happen if something happened to me. One such time was after Jesse Malthus' untimely passing (also by car accident), when his mother made a posting online with the unfortunate news.

If I died tomorrow, would my family know to contact my SL friends? They wouldn't even be able to log into my computer, because my password would die with me. They certainly wouldn't know who I would want them to email, what I'd want them to tell about me, etc.

It's a distressing thought, and I've considered making instructions and writing my passwords down (or at least a password to an encrypted file of passwords). But, I haven't actually done so yet...

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