Death in the Blogosphere

Over my ten years of blogging, lurking, commenting, and message boarding, people have disappeared. Some of these people I’d sparred with regularly to the point that I think I knew them like a friend. Some got fed up with the computer thing and just left. Sometimes with fanfare, sometimes not. On a few occasions, the person has actually died.

In the real world when someone dies, we have something tangible to grasp: visitations, embraces, solemn handshakes lurching into hugs, funeral vigils, wakes, rosaries, and the funeral Mass itself, plus the graveside, the receptions, the follow-up cards, and the other social niceties and parish ministries.

St Blog’s lacks what a real parish might provide. There is very little incarnational about us. We post, and though our software and servers keep everything out here somewhere, for the most part, our daily minutes or hours are pretty much gone the next day. When death comes, it seems the same. Bloggers who die are hundreds of miles, if not continents, away. If they were my next door neightbor, I’d go to the funeral home. If they were my parishioner, I might do music or hospitality or planning for their funeral. On the net, I’m left with comboxing. Usually next-of-kin aren’t bloggers, so the usual interpersonal outreach is lacking to those suffering the most.

Which isn’t to say the prayers and wishes posted at the time of death aren’t sincere, heartfelt, and at times, profound. Gerald’s old blog has a number of moving tributes, and people are still visiting and posting. This South Dakota priest who tragically died about a year ago still has an active site, too. Still, something seems to be missing. The internet gives us a lot of fine things we use and abuse, especially information. But information, often in the form of archives, seems very hollow. And information isn’t quite the same as the other human communication of facial expressions, tears shared, embraces exchanged, or that comforting hand on the shoulder.

Or perhaps I’m just on the morose side today and these web sites still up and running are fitting memorials. What do you think? When you die, would you want your site still up and running?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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3 Responses to Death in the Blogosphere

  1. Liam says:

    Actually, I think the general lack of these things is one of *truer* aspects of this medium, because it underscores the somewhat artificial nature of what happens (and does not happen) here.

  2. crystal says:

    Before I blogged, I belonged to an online writing community. When one of our mrmbers died a few years ago, someone started a BBS dedicated to her … it’s still going.

  3. David says:

    Very interesting observations, Todd. This is actually the first blog I’ve ever visited. Since I didn’t grow up with this and have come to it quite late it has made quite an impression and I’ve been thinking those sorts of things that you talk about. Things like feeling like you have a friend but you’ve never acually met the person. There was a guy I had exchanged emails for years, often very involved philosophical letters on music, and we would send each other samples of our work to have the other critique it quite regularly. Then out of the blue everything stopped dead. No response. It was very bizzare. I’d write every 6 months or so for a couple of years just to see if everything was ok and nothing. I don’t know if he died or what happend. It was the strangest thing.
    But I have thought about this virtual friendship thing. I think there’s something to be explored there.

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