Friday, April 24, 2009

When Internet Becomes Flesh and Dies.

Two net-friends of mine died this past week. One was a rather new friend named "Dougri." He lived, I believe, in Providence. I knew him mainly through YouTube where he had a channel. His video blogs were friendly, funny and intimate. He also loved helping promote others, including your Friendly Neighborhood Songwriter here.

The other was a cyberpal who became flesh. Her name was Adele Liotta. I don't think she was even 60 yet. But in the late 90s, just as the net became accessible for normal folks, she started becoming a kind of cybermom to gay kids whose families had either rejected them or "lost" them in some way. The group became known as CommonBond.

Several times over the years, they'd all meet together in a big hotel and invite me to come and sing for them. Adele's son, CJ, has become a close friend. It was because of CJ, actually, that I came in contact with my nephew, William, who had not yet come out to his family at the time. (William and CJ were fraternity brothers at North Texas State).

Adele suddenly died last week. I don't know the details. But it was unexpectedly and tragic. She will be missed by a lot of people who counted on her for the amazing love she shared with anyone who needed it.

Dougri, someone I didn't in the flesh, but through his cheerful and modest vlogs (made with a child's camera) and emails, was found dead last week by friends. We who followed his "Coffee with Dougri" vlogs knew he was dealing with cancer treatments, but he never really let us know how badly things were going. I found out he was dead when someone else informed me by accident, thinking I already knew. We think it was a suicide, that it had become too painful for him.

This was his last vlog. He had begun losing his voice to the chemo, so he made was is essentially a silent movie, complete with titles and him moving his lips. The images are from a place where he went to as a child -- and the final image is a message about needing to go to chemo, followed by audience applauding.

What social scientists are going to discover, once they really find a way to study the depth and breadth of the Internet, is it functions best not as a mass media broadcaster, but as an intimate way for individual humans to connect to other individual humans.

In no other era of human history, just as I would never have been able to communicate outside of my hospital room, would these two people have been able to reach out like they did. This is where the world is flat.

The Internet is at its most powerful when it finally becomes flesh.

And, like all flesh, it must perish. The difference between then and now is that Dougri's videos are forever. He will live on -- and people will remember him. And people will continue to discover him.

I send my heartfelt love to all who loved and were touched and inspired by Adele and Dougri. My life is richer for having known them.
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