This just popped up in my Twitter feed – although it was published in 2010, I’d like to respond. I must admit that it gave me pause, because the writer expresses some interesting attitudes towards ‘closure’ in online friendships. ‘When your personal mourning period is over, you only have to defriend with the click of a button to leave the wake.’
Personally speaking, I’m not sure we ever can. Whether we remain friends with our online friends’ digital profiles, there is little we can do in our virtual lives which enables us to escape their influence. Once we have known somebody in a virtual capacity, whether we visit the community or not after their passing, they are there and they aren’t.
Such is the challenge of online friendships, because people continue to exist virtually, through profiles, avatars and postings long after they are no longer physically present. I know I find that comforting, although it brings its own challenges.
The Harrison forum has been down for nearly five months, and thinking about that causes a kind of anxiety that few would think possible. Unless, of course, you have shared the pleasure of knowing someone solely online. My fear is that when the forum returns, old messages will have disappeared, and with them many memories.
As it is, the only evidence of my first exchange with Chris exists in my memory. When I could still search the forum, searching for the words ‘Banana and toffee, I think’ brought nothing relevant to the fore. I know that progress means letting go of some things, but I would think that digital longevity should minimise the pain. Then something like forum maintenance happens, and it feels like losing a part of oneself.
A friend and reader put it this way: ‘It’s almost like they’ve destroyed a bar you used to visit, with the added privilege of all the memories being preserved.’ I wouldn’t argue with that. So, here ends my rant about a two and a half-year old article. Would be interested to know what you think.
Wishing you peace and strength on your journeys,