Dying Online

My dad once said, “People die the way they lived,” which is a quote I always enjoy attributing to him, though I’m sure he was quoting someone. I recently remarked about how privately Paul Newman passed on, and I for some reason credited him for that dignified, private death, which I don’t take back. He kept out of the public eye in life, as much as possible for a movie star, and died the way he lived. A new generation of people are going to die the way they lived, with their reflections of their experiences posted on twitter or facebook or whatever social networking site everyone has migrated to by then, and we have to be comfortable with that. We can’t scroll through posts of what people ate for lunch, or what a crap day they had at work, or what a crazy fun night they had at a party, and then flinch when someone posts that they just found out those dizzy spells are because of a malignant brain tumor and it’s inoperable.

As adaptive as humans are we seem to despise change. The way humans communicate is constantly changing. At some point humans started gathering around fires at night and telling stories, which sounds like an awesome social innovation, but there were probably curmudgeons who missed when everyone huddled for warmth and no one spoke. It was too cold to talk! We communicated through touch by using our bodies to keep each other warm and alive. Which sounds snug and cozy but so does gathering around a fire. I’m a curmudgeon. I point out every time my mom’s or sisters’ cell phones drop that that never happens with my landline. But I’m active on social media, as people know. Of course something is lost by not being with people while you communicate, but there are also benefits, so it’s better to look at how communication is different instead of how it’s better or worse.

I sometimes wonder how I’ll die online. People who follow this blog regularly might have read a couple of posts about my health issues, last summer and again last December, but I posted those details after I was okay. Prior to that I was either incapacitated or I was scared and that made me guarded. I tend to be careful what I post. I’m a fiction writer so I’m used to expressing myself but then returning to my words and trying to look hard at them to decipher what those words will leave readers with. That keeps me hidden. I present a version of myself to the online world. I think it’s inevitable that we all do, no matter what the form of communication. Lovers, naked in bed, aren’t fully connecting. Complete connection with another human being is an ideal we strive for but can never reach, which isn’t a bad thing, it keeps relationships evolving and our selves. No one knows me completely from reading my blog posts, but they know me a little and I know them a little when they respond, even if it’s just to say they read it.

About what I care most, writing, I’m quite guarded. I’m not shy about putting my work out there, but I keep the publication woes nearly all writers struggle with to myself. I don’t want to burden people, for one thing, and I don’t want to seem like someone who doesn’t appreciate the joys writing has given me, because that would be a misrepresentation of who I am. In that way social networking helps me strive to be better.

If I die online I hope I’ll be courageous enough to die in much the same way. I’m going to post a link to something I saw that inspired this post. You’ll see from the description what this is and you’re welcome to not watch it. I almost didn’t watch it. It’s indescribably sad but it’s an opportunity to commune with another person as she dies. I imagine she was scared and angry, but this was what she chose to present to the world, online. When I watched it, I bawled. I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I missed her, I loved her, and I wished I had known her.


The above link was added by me and is the video clip mentioned in the blog post. Anything below is from wordpress.


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