By March 29, 2011

Reflections on Online Friendships

My friend passed away yesterday. He was 29 years old and died of an apparent heart attack. I’ve known him for over eleven years; we were both members of the same online community since August of 1999. We played EVE Online and StarCraft 2 together, and he was always writing about games. He was quick to help new players get into EVE, and always kept up a good sense of humor.

The odd thing was that I never met AlphaMeridian in real life, nor do I even know his name. Yet we shared many interests and experiences. He was one of many “online friends.” But is there really that much of a distinction between online and “meatspace” friends?

How much do you know about your friends? Maybe you know a lot about your closest friends, the people you communicate with every day. Start thinking one level out from that closeness, maybe a friend that you’ve known since you were younger but maybe lives in another area or has drifted apart. Then go one level out from that. College friends, friends from work.

You know their names, for sure. Maybe their interests. Their favorite activity and their most hated sports rival. Perhaps you know a little bit — but not too much — about their upbringing. Are they close with their parents and family? What kind of values do they have? Are they willing to reach out to help people, or do they keep to themselves? You may recognize their character traits, but how well do you really know them.

I know that AlphaMeridian loved Ars Technica. I know that he loved playing games. He played a LOT of EVE and other games with the other folks from Ars. I remember fighting with Alpha against BoB (Band of Brothers), our rivals in EVE. He was generous. He was funny.

True, I didn’t know a lot of details about his personal life, but in thinking about his passing it occurs to me I could say the same thing about a lot of my “real” friends, especially the ones I’ve made since moving to Minnesota.

Many of my best friends are ones I’ve met thanks to Ars or other online communities and games. In fact, that’s where I met the love of my life.

To some, there might be a distinction between friends met online and in real life, but not to me. To me, the bonds are just as strong, and the loss of these friends still hurts.

I’ll miss you, AlphaMeridian. Rest in peace. 29 is too young to go. There is never enough time.

http://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=1140602

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