Authors Note: This was posted after hearing of the passing of a good online friend of mine. The intended audience at the time of writing were the other people in the group of friend through which I had met Erika. She had touched many before her untimely death, and is still missed - Andrea 05/15/11
I will say, however, and I'm not proud of this, but in the beginning, I was prepared to dislike Erika. Why? Because she was young, fucking GORGEOUS, and got all the attention, and I can be a jealous, petty woman.
Guess what? Didn't work. Why? Because along with being young, gorgeous, and charismatic, she was also Smart as hell and ridiculously funny. Despite myself, I liked the hell out of Erika. That was cemented with a mutual love of Chuck Klosterman.
I was surprised by the force with which the news of her death hit me. I've had relatives pass away who garnered no more of a reaction than 'oh, I'm sorry, that's so sad'.
It's made me think about my relationships with my online friends. The honest truth is, I don't get out much, and I communicate with many of you more than my local friends (a much nicer term I think than 'IRL' friends). It's a bizarre dynamic though, because of distance and the ability for people to come and go, and disappear into the maze that is the internet.
In high school I was assigned to read "The Chrysalids" by John Wyndham. In this book there are a group of characters who are able to communicate telepathically using 'thought-shapes'. They talk to each other, and know each others thought intimately, despite having never met (with the exception of two of them). At one point, one of the group suddenly stops communication, and it's not until a few weeks later they find the boy has died in an accident.
This part of this particular book has been floating around my head for the past week or two, oddly enough, and had me wondering, what if something happened to one of us? In this situation that wasn't the case, but it's obvious by the way everyone has reacted, the shock and the sorrow, that it's not JUST the internet, we make friends, we lose friends, sadly. The relationships we form here can be just as binding, just as meaningful as any friendship with physical proximity.
I think in the wake of this tragedy, and it is a tragedy when anyone is taken so young (although I often forgot she was only 19, she was wise beyond her years), it becomes plainly clear that we need to respect each other here as we would anyone IRL, because behind each profile there is a living breathing person with thoughts, feelings, hopes, aspirations, insecurities, fears, hearts and minds.
P.S. I don't want to be one of those people who disappears into the interweb, so I'm leaving you all my number... anyone I trust enough to be on my preferred list, I trust enough to have my number. Use it any time.