A friend died last month. I didn’t know until I saw a post on her Facebook account written by a grieving family member or friend. I didn’t even know she had been sick, because she had never posted about her brief illness.
I didn’t know because she was a social media friend, not a “real life” friend. I had never met her in real life. Yet, the news shocked me. Saddened me.
A month before that, another friend died. Like the first person, I had never met him in real life, but had known him for years. Unlike the first person, he had posted often about his long health battle, so I was more prepared for the loss. Still, I grieved.
I have conflicted feelings about the internet and social media, despite the long time I’ve been using them. I started with bulletin boards and Usenet back in the 1980’s, the dark ages before personal computers and cell phones were widespread, but my involvement exploded when I got my first Siberian Husky back in 1993. The willful, stubborn breed challenged me and I stumbled across Sibernet-L, a listserv dedicated to Siberian Huskies.
That simple connection changed everything. I made dozens—hundreds—of friends online. Because of those connections, I went to events and met many of those friends face-to-face. I adopted rescued Siberian Huskies because of those connections.
Sibernet-L was filled with creative people who told tales about the exploits of their canines. I began sharing my own stories, exposing publicly for the first time my joy of writing—a stretch for a corporate finance guy who kept his writings secret like a bad habit. I connected with other writers, some published, who encouraged me. The stories began to flow and I created my first website, no longer in existence, to share them and that evolved into my second website, The Thundering Herd, which now contains thousands of photos and stories about my dogs.
When social media entered the equation, I joined several networks and expanded my friendship circle further. I enjoyed reading others stories and posted my own. And, finally, I decided to leave the corporate finance world and try my hand at writing for a living.
In the last few years, though, the online world grew darker. Conflict raged. Tempers flared. Between COVID and politics this past year, I tired of social media. I withdrew from the platforms personally and haven’t posted on my personal Facebook account since January, though I still comment on others. I chose instead to return to blogging in the form of this weekly musing.
But I wonder how many friends I won’t meet by pulling back. Yes, I grieve the death of two friends, two people I never met in real life but knew from online, but my world is a better place for having known them. They made me smile and laugh. They made me think.
Lynn and Zak—I’m wishing the best of comfort for your family and friends. Thank you for letting me get to know you even if we never met. I’m grateful for the opportunity.
Books I’m Reading
Mickey Haller (aka, The Lincoln Lawyer) faces his toughest case yet—defending himself from a murder charge.
Most people think of bears or elk when they think of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but one of the more unique creatures here are the synchronous fireflies (photinus carolinus). They are so named because they synchronize their flash which creates an eerie effect. If you want to see them, however, you must have a pass which is only distributed by lottery once a year. That lottery expires tonight, so visit here if you are interested.
Gratuitous Dog Picture
His Highness Little Prince Typhoon Phooey declares the weekend should’ve lasted longer and Monday should not have arrived so quickly. He is decidedly not ready for the week and insists on a little more time to wake up.
Background title image courtesy dole777.
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