Memorials

If you read this blog, you may also be familiar with 70s Music Mayhem, which examined the songs to debut on the Hot 100 in a given week of the 1970s. It must have taken a lot of time to research it, find YouTube links, and add buy links to Amazon and iTunes, but such labor isn’t really work if you love to do it. Chris Stufflestreet, the writer of 70s Music Mayhem, a companion site on the 80s, and a couple of other blogs about baseball card collecting, died last week of a heart attack. He was 39 years old. I might never have learned about his death were it not for an Internet accident. The news was posted in a comment on one of Chris’ baseball blogs; one of my Internet friends saw it, blogged about it, and tweeted the link. Had I not seen that, Chris would merely have been another one of those guys who disappeared from the Interwebs without explanation, leaving only a mystery behind.

When I first started blogging nearly 10 years ago, there was a lot of supercilious commentary about how the web was going to atomize us, turn us all into lonely people hammering away in solitude, never making personal, emotional connections with other human beings again. But what it’s really done is to create communities that might never have existed otherwise, communities that are just as real to the participants as if they met in hotel ballrooms, convention centers, or bars. (People passionate about both 70s music and baseball cards could meet in a very small room, but the Internet is as big, or as small, as it needs to be.) As we have noted here, electronic relationships sometimes cross over into what we used to call the real world—but the distinctions between real and virtual are being erased, and it’s these electronic communities that are erasing them.

Chris’ death reminds us that if we’re living on the Internet with a blog, a Facebook account, and/or a Twitter feed, we’ll be leaving something of ourselves behind when we go. The Facebook accounts of the deceased become living online memorials. Twitter feeds and blogs just stop. I’ve considered whether to write one last post for The Mrs. to put up here in the eventuality of my demise. I hate the idea of just disappearing from this site one day without an explanation, and I very much like the idea of gasbagging from beyond the grave.

(A few years ago, up late and feeling morose, I wrote my own eulogy, with the intention of having somebody read it at the memorial beer bash I’ll be having instead of a funeral. I later lost it in a computer crash, but I can still remember the first lines: “If you’re hearing this, I’m dead. Although the doctors and nurses who took care of me at the end may not have known everything there is to know about medicine, I’m pretty sure they recognize dead.”)

Chris commented on my blog and I commented on his; we were Facebook friends; he was in Florida and I’m up here in Wisconsin; we never met in person and might never have met in person. But I knew—as I know of my other Internet friends—that if I had a question only he could answer, he’d be happy to do so, just as I am happy to answer such questions myself.

Internet friends are often people we can count on, and what’s a true friend, if not that? We should probably stop using the phrase “Internet friends” altogether. Just the one word is enough.

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7 responses

  1. I participate in an online forum based around the town in which I used to live. A few of the folks I actually know in meat-space, but most I’ve never met face to face. If I get asked about someone from the forum I refer to them as “a friend I’ve never met.” That seems less-accurate these days, however, as I know a lot more (some times too much more) about some of my online friends than I do my meat-space friends.

    “gasbagging from beyond the grave” – I’m stealing that title for my final @ death blog post – now I’ve just gotta give my kids the blog password so they can post it.

  2. I agree with you about dropping the word “Internet” from the phrase “Internet friend.” Bill James noted in one of his baseball histories/analyses that the English language often sees differentiating adjectives disappear as their necessity diminishes. When cars were new, he said, folks talked about taking an “automobile trip,” but that use of the word “automobile” slowly faded as automobiles became the prevalent mode of travel. James made the observation in connection with computers being used to analyze baseball data. There was a tendency, he said (writing, if I recall correctly, in the mid-1980s), to use the term “computer information,” as if the source of the information colored its applicability or usefulness. Now, it’s all simply information. And so, too, are we all simply friends, waiting for the language to catch up with us. Nice post and nice remembrance.

  3. Nice post, although I hated reading this news.

    I’ve had the great fortune to be part of two very wonderful and supportive internet communities. The first one was 100% online. The second started online and then spurned a series of parties and gatherings all over the country. And while the online-only friendships are amazing, the ones that start online and then include “real life” meetings are always even more amazing.

    Thanks for the blogs, Chris (and for having the most Dickensian name I’ve heard in years). Kicking myself for not having visited more often.

  4. Jim, I don’t think you and I have ever met – in person – even though we wandered the halls of the same broadcast building during a briefly overlapping time period. We have spoken on the phone; we’ve read, enjoyed, and commented on each other’s work.

    Some would say we’re acquaintances (acquainted with each other’s work), but not really friends; I’d say we’re friends. Texas friends. They have a saying in the Lone Star state that covers these situations: “Yup, we’re friends; we’ve howdied, but we haven’t shook”.

  5. Wow. I had just checked Chris’ ’70s and ’80s blogs before I saw your news about his death. And his blogs each had had new entries posted over the weekend. I’m so sorry to learn this news. Checking his blogs along with yours and Echoes in the Wind and others has been part of my ritual for the past year. He’ll be missed.

  6. Very sorry and shocked to hear about Chris today. I just received a message about a new 80s post…I think Chris took your advice.

    And as an aside, I appreciate all the new folks that I’ve met since I’ve started my blog and consider each one that I’ve talked with, whether physically or virtually, a friend

  7. […] And then, earlier this week, I was perusing another favorite internet outpost, The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, and was surprised to read that Chris had passed away last week. […]

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