Online Communities on Death

Last night, Ivan Zimmerman, a 21-year-old student at SFSU fell from the fourth floor of a dorm and died. I didn’t know him. As of now, it seems they haven’t yet established whether it was a suicide, accident, or result of a fight. Regardless, he’s gone. The week before finals, no less.I learned about this through an SFSU community on LiveJournal. The person who posted the article included a link to Ivan’s MySpace account. Interestingly, people are already leaving public goodbye comments to Ivan. They speak to him, not about him. They grieve in the presence of others, but they grieve directly to him. danah boyd wrote about this phenomenon also, recently. She’d noticed it on both MySpace and Friendster. It’s a poignant and strange occurance, and it doesn’t seem to be an isolated event. Online community accounts live on after sudden deaths. It may be a little creepy, but it seems to also help (at least initially) with the grieving process. With the tenacity online communities use to get and keep members, I wouldn’t be surprised if these accounts lived on for another fifty years. So strange…

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6 Responses to “Online Communities on Death”

  1. Wanqing Says:

    For younger generation of overseas Chinese like us (learning Chinese as a 2nd language), we do not learn traditional Chinese characters now. Though we can still read texts with traditional characters, we cannot write them at all. For those learning Chinese as a foreign language, it will be best to concentrate your efforts in learning simplified characters. You can easily convert traditional characters into simplified ones via computer.

    You can understand 80% of most texts if you know about 1000 frequently used characters and 99% with 2500 characters. For us we learn only 3500 characters in 10 years of Chinese learning. Think you have made quite a bit of progress.

  2. Nameless Says:

    It's… kind of crazy… But up until this post, I just thought you were a terribly interesting person that allowed me to procrastinate from doing my work…. Reading this, however, makes me think otherwise. In some ways, it seems that you are very much like me. And you seem to have survived the experience. Maybe I'm not as hopelessly screwed as I thought. Thank you.

  3. sarahdopp Says:

    testing something

  4. Michael Says:

    The post tries to implies the craziness of the younger generation.

  5. NejikFans Says:

    ??? ?????)))

  6. JoAnna Wurst Says:

    Hey Sarah!
    I was wondering if you have stumbled on any more examples of this occurring in online communities. I’m writing an article for Anthropology today about commemorating death through online communities and am looking for examples. I will not be releasing any names or personal information through the article, just trying to define a cultural aspect on death in a cyber world.
    I really enjoy that both you and danah boyd have both found this to be curious! I think so too!
    Jo