“Ghosting” is a slang term among young people (they come and go so fast, this one may already be out of fashion) for having been dropped by someone you thought was a friend or, at least, a good acquaintance.
When someone ghosts you, he or she abruptly stops telephoning or responding to text messages or posting on your social media pages. When I was in high school, we referred to such behavior as cutting someone dead.
Recently, I was perusing some posts from the early years of this blog (TGB has been here since 2004). Reading along day-by-day, I was amazed to see a lot of familiar names, commenters who are still around, who have been contributing to these conversations for a decade and more.
Some of those people are “blog friends”, people with whom I exchange email now and then (or, sometimes, more frequently). Mostly we haven't met face-to-face, but we know one another quite well after all this time. I think of them as friends.
Or, perhaps they are more like neighbors – people we “see” regularly, stop to pass the time of day and continue on our way until next time.
As I continued reading those ancient posts, other names stood out too. Not close internet friends, but people I had come to know through their comments and occasional emails. Why their names leapt out now, however, is that they have not shown up in the comments for a long time, years.
What happened to them?
Certainly, some of them stopped reading Time Goes By and unsubscribed. That happens all the time. People leave, others join and so it goes. Nothing out of the ordinary but still, one wonders.
So I checked some of those names against the subscriber list. Several were no longer subscribed but a larger number are still there and the emails have not bounced which would indicate a closed email account. So they are either still reading TGB or – what?
Are they dead? That is not an unreasonable question for a blog about what it's like to grow old. And it is also not unreasonable to believe that no one unsubscribed them – that's hardly on the to-do list when a loved one dies.
One thing I've learned from producing this blog for so many years is how much of ourselves and our personalities we reveal over time in words, phrases and ideas we choose. Years of reading the thoughts of people on a variety of topics cannot help but lead us to care about them, to feel a connection.
That makes it more than disconcerting when they disappear. Sometimes it happens as I have described above – that I didn't notice for a good while after a reader stopped commenting. Other times, I notice after a couple of weeks: Geez, what happened to Mary, or John, etc.
I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that I doubt any TGB readers are “ghosting” me. Some, undoubtedly, decide they have gleaned all they want from Time Goes By and move on.
But some, too, have died and there is no way for me – or for readers who enjoyed a person's comments – to know.
I suppose it makes sense. Who in a family knows much of anything about what other family members do online. Or further, knows that mom or dad or anyone else in the family has been enjoying conversations, maybe for many years, at a certain website and feels a kinship with those people.
I've written about these cyber-friends in the past and how important they can become.
”I believe that the internet arrived just in time for our generation(s) to develop a new kind of friendship that opens – quite literally – a world of possibilities for human connections that can prevent loneliness, expand our horizons and help us form bonds that can be as nurturing as some in-person relationships.”
About two months ago, a woman who had infrequently but regularly posted comments here over many years emailed to tell me she had entered hospice. She was grateful in her last days, she said, that someone else was doing the small chores that had become difficult for her, and she could die in peace.
We exchanged several emails talking about all kinds of things and then several days went by without a response from her. I knew she had died.
Then I did what I always do when someone I know has died. I lit a candle. I sat quietly for a good while and thought about her. I went went back over some old blog posts and read her comments. What a remarkable memory jog it is to have that – perhaps a little like saved, hand-written, snail-mail letters in days before the internet.
A whole life of many decades gone, to be grieved and honored. Undoubtedly, some of the names that have gone missing from TGB comments have died. I'm so sorry to not know.