Monday, 7 January 2013

When someone disappears.......an internet conundrum

As a member and moderator of a UK website, sometimes things occur to me when I'm doing housework on the site.  I want to close down a thread tonight as we have a new one of the same subject for 2013.  Whilst looking around, I noticed that one of our regular members had not posted for a while, and when I looked up the "last visit", it was August 2012. Mmmmm.  Just before Christmas, one of our regular and respected members had died, but we knew straight away because there had obviously been instructions left about "what to do if........"

And it set me to thinking.  What do you do if someone just disappears?  Maybe they want to stop using that particular site?  Maybe a family happening has meant that they have no time for the internet?  Maybe, like Nan of "Letters from a Hill Farm" blog, they have just decided to stop? (although to be fair, Nan did tell all her followers that she was stopping blogging).

If, like our particular website, the friends you have are real (because we meet up in groups all over the country regularly, and have made some lovely friendships because of it), it is a worry when someone is just not there.  What do you do?  You can send them an email if you have an email address - but what if you haven't?  What if you have got their email address but never get a reply?  Are they dead or just ignoring you?

This must have happened many times in the internet world, but what are people actually doing about it?  Is it that under normal circumstances the person concerned is not "real" so it doesn't really matter?  Surely not!

In pre-internet (and possibly pre-phone) days, the executor of an estate would not only clear out the house, pay outstanding bills, forward gifts to those named, sell property if any, and generally tidy up the estate of the deceased - they would also put an advertisement in the local paper to say that Joe Bloggs died after a long illness etc.  If people had moved from their home town then it would also be necessary to go through the address book if there was one, sending a note to everyone in it.  Then phones arrived, and the executor might sit down and ring round.  And then with the arrival of mobile (cell) phones, presumably, lots of people get to hear by text. 

But now we have something new.  The death or disappearance if an internet friend.  So this may be something you will want to think about?  Who is going to do the "what to do ...." list after you have gone? and where are your internet details?