Snippets From SXSW Interactive 2003

User Not Found: Dealing With the Death of Online Friends

Saturday, March 8, 3:30-4:30pm
Death is not new to avid bloggers and others active in Internet communities. Whether it's "killing" off an online persona, an online friend inexplicably dropping offline, "killing" an opponent in a gaming community, or literally dying, death can be as bewildering or heartbreaking as death in the "real world." However, there's no Kubler-Ross manual for online communities, so Dana Robinson, community manager of a site for chronically ill children, set out to explore the subject. She launched www.usernotfound.com in January of this year, sharing her research and inviting comments from those who've experienced the death of online friends. Her impetus was not entirely objective. An online friend she knew was chronically ill suddenly stopped communicating. Was he tired of communicating or worse?

So far, Robinson's discovered several important things. The protocol for handling the death of users, even large user sites like Yahoo!Mail and AOL Online, are as varied as the number of ways to die. Small niche communities may not have even broached the subject, while others have borrowed from traditional methods.

"In some gaming communities, I've seen that they've scheduled mourning events, kind of like online funerals," Robinson says. "I think it's really interesting that groups 'at war' with each other will put down their weapons to come together to memorialize."

Other communities deal with a death by keeping the account of the deceased "alive" with a "rest in peace" message, while others provide mourning pages where other community members can post their thoughts.

"The worst thing is to have no action, as if [the death] didn't happen," Robinson says.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
SXSW Interactive: Lessons From the Texas Abortion Battles
SXSW Interactive: Lessons From the Texas Abortion Battles
Social media played key role in contentious abortion debate

Jordan Smith, March 11, 2014

Dell, Google, and an Untold Story Hit SXSW
Dell, Google, and an Untold Story Hit SXSW
More additions to South by Southwest Interactive

Neha Aziz, Feb. 20, 2014

More by Belinda Acosta
Margaret Moser Tribute: Marcia Ball
Marcia Ball
“She’s a music writer who writes to enlighten”

June 30, 2017

Margaret Moser Tribute: Eliza Gilkyson
Eliza Gilkyson
The best advice she ever received? Keep your dogs clean.

June 30, 2017

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle