Friday, October 19, 2007

Living and Dying Online

Earlier today, I found out via an e-mail that a friend from highschool had died from breast cancer.

While I found the news most upsetting, I didn't find the method of delivery unusual. When my mother-in-law died, we were so physically and emotionally exhausted that the only way I could handle passing on the news to our friends and family was to e-mail people.

Some people still find death the last taboo of online communications. I have no such qualms. The e-mail I received also had a link to a posting on the funeral home's website of the obituary notice. I've also heard of people posting retrospective videos online or having message boards for people to post and share message about the deceased.

I think e-mail and Web can be a great way to help people talk, share and deal with the death than they might be able to in person.

Many of us live so much of our lives online nowadays. I have found out about births, marriages, divorces, coming outs, hirings and firings online.

I think Facebook is great for enabling this by helping us share the details of our lives with a wider circle of friends than we might otherwise be able to. For instance, there's this perception that people don't want to see other people's kid or trip pix. I love seeing them, even more so when I can do it on my own time.

Without the Internet, I never would be this in touch with people's lives. It's definitely a good thing.


Stephen Fetter said...

Couldn't agree more.

One of the blogs I read regularly is of a colleague in Halifax who is dying of cancer.

She and I have worked on national committees together. I respect her deeply, but I wouldn't exactly consider myself a "friend." Even so, we have worked closely together, critiqued each other's work, edited each others' writing, and formed a significant relationship.

Since she's in Halifax, and now unable to travel, and since I'm unlikely to be sent to Halifax for a national meeting before she dies, it's extremely unlikely that we'll ever see each other again. Yet I read of her journey daily, and send encouragement at least once a week. I'm probably one of 100's doing that ... and it sure makes a difference to both her and me that this is possible.

Glen Farrelly said...

Thanks for your post. It raises a good point about not only how the Internet helps keeps us in touch with one another's lives, but also helps foster and maintain a variety of relationship types.

There is a lot of criticism of online friendships - that they are trivial and not as valid as offline relationships.

Some of this is legit - for instance, people with 300+ "friends" on social network sites.

But just because you don't go out for drinks with someone every week or two, doesn't mean you don't care what's going on in their lives. Also, the criticism seems to think of friends at only one level, ie. bosom buddies, but that's not accurate. I have plenty of friends, offline that I just share jokes and laughs with, so why would all my online friends have to be more meaningful than that?

Our lives are much different than they were 20, 50, 100 years ago. I believe, the Internet finally provides the means to find and maintain the community that was lost over the years.