Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Death In The Family

No one died.    I need to make that clear right up front.  But removing one's profile from a social networking site is a kind of death,  a social suicide of sorts that can be quite disconcerting to other participants.

It definitely was not the classic "Goodbye Cruel World", histrionic sort of exit.   There _was_ a  heated discussion, largely on the topic of Ayn Rand. (Which is not one of my favorite things to talk about;  honestly I found Atlas Shrugged more or less unreadable and usually parrot some bit of popular opinion when Ms. Rand and her writings come up-- although my friend Holly is expanding my perspective a bit where Rand is concerned.)  Except for once asking a clarifying question (which was completely ignored)  I didn't say anything,  just sat back and watched the two participants have at it.   It did seem to me that the man made a few comments that certainly could be construed as misogynistic and condescending.    The woman did an admirable job, it seemed to me,  of not rising to the bait.   A moderator did step in and asked both participants to cool it.   The moderator was at first ignored,  though the discussion did die down a short time later.   The man announced other obligations,  thanked the woman and then left.    Fifteen minutes later he was history.

I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one standing there feeling a bit shocked.   On social networking sites it is So easy to get to know a whole bunch of people;  so easy to fall into routines and come to count on people to be there, day after day.   So easy to miss the fragility and fleetingness of the connection,  which really can be irrevocably ended just by pressing a button marked  'Delete My Profile'.   Today,  as the #SocialEmpire group continues along, seemly without a blip,  I find myself thinking about other friends I've made and lost online over all these years.  Thinking how important and impactful so  many of those relationships have been.  How amazingly enduring at times, and how utterly fleeting.   Easy come.  Easy go.


ender said...

The fleeting nature of internet communities has always kind of disturbed me. I was part of one email group for about 10 years before it just kind of faded away and I think that's the group that stayed cohesive the longest. Other groups - or sometimes just blog friends - seem to last no more than a few years at best, at least as a tight or consistent group. Seems it eventually falls to casual connection ... and then often just fades away.

And yet, while the internet makes that easy to do (both to meet and to leave), I can also see that same pattern in my "real-life" friends as well. (Quotes used because I don't think that's a good description. My online friends are real-life friends as well. I just haven't physically met most of them.)

There are several folks that just sort of drifted away. Calls and emails are exchanged every now and again. Quick dinner somewhere, maybe. And then years pass, numbers are lost or people move.

What's the Stephen King line? "I never had friends later on in life like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?"

Libdrone said...

ender! How nice to see you here. I still follow your tweets, but I felt I kind of lost touch with you since that little group we on JD's IRC channel-- which seemed to last a lot less than a couple of years. I've been wading into and drifting away from groups of friends on the Internet for almost 20 years now.

Sometimes there is a big dramatic rendering of a community, but as you say more often it seems that people just drift away from each other. And now that you mention it, I too see that pattern with offline relationships. (I've long since stopped distinguishing between people that I know only online or online offline.)

OTOH, there's really no one I knew in childhood that I would Want to know no. Good to see you, ender.