Editor’s note: The following article is adapted from a blog post I made to my professional blog this morning. I felt, with some adaptations, that it was appropriate social commentary for this venue.
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The power of social media struck me full force last night in a way I could not have anticipated. After a very long day, I was taking one last look at email before going to bed. I noticed a note sent from Facebook from someone I did not know. Lately I’ve received a number of friend requests on Facebook from spammers simply marketing their affiliate links. However this was not a friend request, it was an actual note so I took the time to read it and to my shock it was informing me that Mike, one of my acquaintances on Twitter, had just died. The young lady was going through Mike’s list of Facebook friends to let them know the sad news.
After the initial shock wore off, I got on Twitter to inform a few of Mike and my mutual acquaintances. As I wrote back and forth with one of them, something surprising happened. Tears started rolling down my face.
This surprised me because I have never actually met Mike. I’ve seen him on webcam and I’ve seen still pictures of him but I honestly doubt I would have recognized him if we passed each other on the street. But when I “met” him in cyberspace about two years ago he was more than a source of electronic messages. He was authentic. He chatted with me on Twitter with no ulterior motive other than to be friends and share. At a time when I was new to the Twitterverse, Mike offered to feature my Twitter handle on his web site as a go-to guy. He asked for my professional opinion of some of his business ventures. He became very real to me. He was kind. He was a good guy. Like many friendships in “the real world”, we got busy and lost touch but the minute I saw his name in that sad note, I immediately thought back to our exchanges. The other powerful aspect to this was how using Facebook, a friend of Mike’s was able to reach out to folks she never knew existed. I have no doubt that before his Facebook account is taken down, Mike’s “wall” will be full of tributes from friends and family, an electronic memorial of sorts.
On this blog, I have encountered a great variety of people. Some popped in and left one comment never to be seen again. Others visit and comment often. Among that set, there are those who prefer to be cartoon characters. They spout platitudes. They really share nothing meaningful from a human level. That is their prerogative. There is no rule within the blogosphere that one has to bare one’s soul. On the other hand, there are many who share just enough of themselves that they cross the line from anonymous commenter (or worse, troll) to a fully formed human being.
Next week I celebrate the third anniversary of The Rutherford Lawson Blog. In that time, I’ve witnessed post-graduate work pursued, past heart attacks, miscarriages and subsequent joyous births, the frustration of assembling an entertainment center, the loss of a loved pet, and modest testimony from someone who has put himself in harm’s way to protect our country. These stories only scratch the surface. I feel in some way that I “know” some of these people. I couldn’t spot them on the street. Heck, I don’t know most of their real names and they don’t know mine. I vehemently disagree with the politics of many of them. Yet these few folks have become real to me and even when I disagree with some of them, I look forward to reading what they have to say.
In fact, if I found out that any one of them had died, I suspect I would shed a tear.