Thursday, January 6, 2011

Death in the Blogosphere

Before the winter break, I found myself delving back into my old xanga blog as I searched for something I'd written a few years back.  Xanga was the hippitiest happenin' place to blog and social network way back in 2004, before Myspace, before Facebook, before Twitter.  Now, of course, it's...well...just not.

I bailed on it wasn't a good platform for anything other than noodly semi-serious social blogging.  Yeah, I'm still a rank amateur, and Blogger ain't WordPress, but it's at least marginally respectable as a platform in the blogging world.

My search for the sermon fodder quickly bore fruit, but I found myself clicking through to check on the status of some of my more regular former xanga chatmates.  Some I still stay in touch with here and through Facebook...bless y'all.   But others I haven't comment-chatted with in years.

As I clicked through, most folks had stopped writing in 2008 or 2009, at about the same time I wandered off.  One guy in particular I communicated with almost daily, a conservative lawyer and really gracious human being who didn't often agree with me, but invariably stirred some thought provoking conversation.   I checked his xanga page, and found it ended back in 2009, with an innocuous post about pizza.  For some reason, I drilled down to the comments.

When I knew him, Kevin was a brain cancer survivor, and was in remission...but it had returned in 2009.  And then it and complications from it had taken him.  For the hour after I discovered this, I read through his wife's reflections on his illness, his death, her mourning, and the faith they shared.

What struck me was just how bizarre our lives in this medium can be.  Here was a human being who I'd communicated with on a semi-daily basis, a conversation partner, one of the souls who formed my network of being.  Yet he could just...die...and I could miss it.  Perhaps that's a construct of the fluttering early days of social networking, before the rise of the mighty Facebook.  But for as far as the web can create communities of shared interest, it is a remarkably easy place for human beings you've met in it to just...vanish.

Of course, I'd never even have known this good soul without blogging.   Yet it still felt odd to realize just how quietly a human being can slip away in this medium.  It creates relationships like that with the neighbor with whom you pass a casual friendly hello every day until you move away.  Absent the reinforcing connections of shared community, that person's life is no longer connected to your own.