Online Friends and Death

A screen shot of the forum as I express my grief over my deceased friend (Image: Mandy Horetski)

If you are like me, you probably have at least a few friends that you only know on the internet. I’ve been on the internet for 15 years now, since my sophomore year in college. I’ve been a member of many forums and made many friends that I only know through the internet. Some of these I’ve met in real life, but most I’ve never had the chance. But I’ve never had an online friend who passed away, until I found out a friend from a forum I’ve been on for seven years passed away over the weekend.

The loss of my online friend got me thinking about online friends and how to grieve for them. I think it may be harder in some ways to grieve for an online friend because most people won’t get the chance to attend a funeral or see physical signs that that person is no longer living. They just simply aren’t there anymore. In some cases, some people may not know for a long period of time that their friend has passed away because there are a lot of reasons a person stops posting on the internet.

For the loved ones who are left after a person who was active online passes away, there are things to consider like what to do with their social media and email accounts. Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and even MySpace have policies in place to deal with accounts of people who have died, so it is something that these businesses are thinking about. I know I’ve thought about the fact that I really should write down all the user names and passwords to all my accounts on the internet, especially to forums and social media sites, so my husband can let people know in the event that I pass away.

The internet has changed the way that we formed friendships and I think this is great. I love having friends all over the world, but it does hurt when a person who has touched my life as well as many others died suddenly. For me and for members of the forum I’m on, this is a rough time as we try to mourn a friend that many of us never got the chance to meet outside of the internet.

Have you every had an online friend who passed away? How did you deal with your grief?

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