Friendship is usually defined by concentric circles, but I have always categorized intimacy by telephone numbers. There are people I can call any time, people I would only call for a reason, like party arrangements, and people whose number I don’t have at all. It can be confusing when people in those latter categories pass away. You knew them, you feel a loss, but you are in a grey area.
When Dennis Boon died I didn’t attend his funeral. Friends assumed I was too grief-stricken but really I was afraid of intruding. I assumed the family would want to grieve in peace without a bunch of little punkettes running around.
As life went on and many friends passed, often due to an O.D. there was a disconnect between the family and this second “punk rock family”. We began having our own little wakes at a friend’s house, or at a club like Mr T’s.
Social network grieving started on MySpace. The person’s page would become a digital memorial, with friends leaving farewell comments on the person’s page.
This week I have lost two people, each from a different community. FaceBook is where we publish the notices, and soon there is a flood of messages of disbelief, grief, and the sharing of anecdotes. It is a virtual wake.
In some ways it does seem as if we are becoming further and further removed from each other. There is a fear that the computer is eroding face-to-face communication. But considering the fact that Anthropologists have found ritual objects in the earliest graves, I don’t think anything can completely banish the human need to gather together and share rituals. FaceBook gives people in the grey area a place to gather.
Photo credit: Sean MacEntee via Flickr