Thoughts on the death of an online acquaintance

I was privileged last week to hear from one of my old friends that I met playing WoW a couple of years ago.  He was, for a while, the leader of the guild that I joined in 2009, and we still keep in touch from time to time.

He and I are also Facebook friends, and I shot him a FB message a few nights ago.  He responded with a text message to say hello, and then proceeded to let me know that someone I had known in WoW, and someone who used to be a personal friend of his, had died.

This person had led a guild that most of my former guild (the guild I was in when Icecrown Citadel was current) had been a part of during The Burning Crusade.  There was a guild split due to several raid-team-based disagreements and personality conflicts, and after they split, I joined the splinter guild.

This is the guild I was a member of when I truly learned how to play WoW, got my first raiding and PvP experience with, and killed an expansion end-boss for the first time.  In all, we were pretty successful during Wrath of the Lich King, and as far as I know, the old guild has floundered and struggled ever since the split.

I said a few paragraphs up that I had known the guy, but I really didn’t.  While we had a few interactions, he was, to me, just the pally who led the old guild, the guy who caused the problems that caused the split, which occurred before I was in the picture.  He was an acquaintance.

On the other hand, my old guild leader had known the guy personally, living in the same town and working at the same company.  They had been friends up until around the time of the guild split, as far as I know, and then had lost touch for the most part.

He and his co-workers were shocked.  Hearing about the death of someone you know is a mind-blowing experience, and he was doing what he could to find out details of how the guy died, although as far as I know he has had no success.

I was shocked too.  Sometimes the idea that an in-game character is an actual person can make one think strange things, and one of the things I thought about in the hours after receiving the news was that this guy was dead, but his WoW characters still exist.  They will never log in again.  You can still look them up on the armory (for now, until six months of inactivity kicks in), but the progress has stopped for eternity.  He has disappeared from the game.

Yes, it’s a weird set of thoughts, but they happened.

I had a similar set of thoughts once about a blogger that I followed.  The guy was a young man just out of college who wrote a chess blog and was looking for a job.  I followed the blog for several months when, one day, I read what became his last post.  It said something to the effect that, “I’ve got a degree, but have been writing this blog without being able to find a a job for a year, and my parents are tired of me living here, and I don’t know what else to do. So this is goodbye.”  It was eerie – blunt and final – and then that was it.

And with that, he disappeared into the ether, for all intents and purposes.

I read his post weeks after he wrote it – this was at a time when I had several hundred unread posts in my reader – and it was haunting.  Where did the guy go?  Is he still alive?  Did he eventually find a job and a place to live?  The negative possibilities scared me, given what he said when he stopped blogging.  They bother me to this day.

Anyway… back to my friend’s former WoW-playing friend.

I thought about other things, too.  I thought about how my friend may be feeling, wondering if he wishes that he could have rebuilt that bridge.  I know from conversations that we’ve had that he was concerned for the guy – he had lost his job, was 40 years old, and was living with his parents.  He was into drugs, etc.  And now he’s gone, and there’s no going back from that, in so many ways.  No way to bring him back, no way to mend fences, no way to make a difference in the guy’s life.

I also thought about how the guy had spent the last few years of his life just playing the game every single day.  He didn’t have an occupation, wasn’t married, didn’t have much of a social life.  Working his way towards nothing.  Not bettering himself.

Sobering thoughts.

* * *

I’ve tried to let some of his former guild-mates know what happened – I have a couple of other friends who knew him, and I knew they would want to know.  It kind of freaked me out, and the responses I’ve gotten have been similar to my own.  I didn’t know the guy, but I’m still saddened by his death, sad for his family and friends, and for him.

I know this piece rambles a bit – hopefully it’s somewhat coherent.  Feel free to leave a comment if you have something to share.  If you have a blog and haven’t posted for a while, I’d like to encourage you to write a short post and let your readers/followers  know that you’re still around.  Sometimes people complain about “sorry I haven’t blogged, but I’ve been busy/bored/uninspired” posts, so don’t make it an apology post – just write in to say hello, tell us something that you’re working on or something funny that happened to you recently.  Chances are, there is someone out there that will be happy to know what you have to say.

Also, now is never a bad time to call or write to someone you haven’t communicated with in a while.

Thanks for reading.


2 Comments on “Thoughts on the death of an online acquaintance”

  1. taureanw says:

    To add to this I find it interesting that blogs and a person’s internet presence will be around long after they are gone. This may sound somewhat off-putting, but for a close friend of mine who never knew their father this has the possiblity of helping them get to know a person who was not in their life. So while it may sound strange & I know there are going to be things on the net we don’t want people to see or remember it also has the possibility for some good.

  2. This adds another interesting perspective to Internet relationships. Hope you are doing well.

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