– and the questions of virtual friendships & grief

The internet’s always had a morbid side, there’s always been places to go to tread on the other side of the tracks, to think about things you wouldn’t normally consider, including, so I’m informed: ways to commit suicide, videos of insurgent executions, and even a questionnaire to figure out how long you’re likely to live, but the oddest I’ve heard of so far (via: the guardian podcast) is a site of obituaries and reports of deaths of members of the now ubiquitous website

It’s sad reading, a collection of suicides, overdoses, car crashes, murders and other assorted accidents and illnesses, but it’s telling that the two highest forms of death from the brief look I had at the site were car accidents (hardly a shock when the average age on myspace seems to be around about 18) and more worryingly suicide. Is it the case that some of these people are living two lives, a life online full of virtual chat and friends, and a life offline of loneliness and depression?

There are people that are now shouting ghoulishly that there should be a proper obituary area on myspace, but I don’t think this will do anything other than creating a sense of mourning by default, creating what I almost guarantee would be a Diana style outpouring of crocodile tears, fueled by a sense that you have to be upset to fit in with the crowd, regardless of how well you knew someone (if at all…). What would be infinitely more useful would be for NewsCorp to show some Corporate Responsibility to it’s new found community, as well as making a ton of songs available to the users how about some advice pages, maybe even a couple of trained counselors that people could talk to if they’re feeling lonely, depressed or even suicidal?

People seem to forget that there’s no substitute for real human contact, for a real flesh and blood shoulder to cry on, to shout at, or even just to rest your head on, and the loneliest place in the world can be the one where you’re sat in front of your computer surrounded by virtual ‘buddies’ who when it comes down to it you’re very unlikely to see often in real life (if ever…) and when it comes down to the brutally honest truth there are people you know online who you’re happy to only know online, you wouldn’t want to meet them, or be a part of the life you talk about with them you’re just happy that they’re there online, continuing on the brutal truth (and it’s one that a lot of people who’ve worked or played with online communities can testify to) there are some people you’re “virtually” friends with who if they went ‘offline’ you’d not notice, you’d assume they just got bored, or they’ve joined another site, they could be laying in a morgue somewhere, but with the separation that ‘virtual’ friendships give you, you’d likely never know, and in time likely never care.

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