Friday, November 6, 2009

A Not-So-Virtual Wake

It's been a rough week. I should have blogged yesterday or the day before. I started the week moving forward under an already heavy workload, then a good friend died and it really threw me off.

Joe Juriga was a cherished friend to many - so many that I doubt his family would have known even half of them, much less have been able to personally contact everyone who loved him. Think about it - how many people are you good friends with but have never had contact with their family? With social networking what it is today, our connections are growing in number and even more so for the outgoing, genuine people like Joe. So how did we all find out?


Joe's status update gave the sad news and offered his page up for memories in celebration of his life. I immediately Skyped a friend about it. Within 30 minutes, the posts started. They went for days. On day two, a friend of his posted a MySpace link to a song called "Broken" that he wrote and recorded in memory of Joe. On day three, an article went up in Fort Lauderdale, FL saying goodbye to the leader and friend that Joe was, and the obituary went online from Birmingham NY, with a guestbook that comments can be left on.

In these few days, dozens of friends and relatives have been able to share stories, photographs, tributes, music, love, disbelief and understanding with each other - many not even knowing one another. It is an online wake, it is instant - no waiting for the funeral, no travel time, no black outfit to find, and his family has been able to see what a huge and positive impact he has had on so many people.

The "virtual" communities online are very real. We now accept telephone communication as person-to-person, as real as it gets - but we still call the online world "virtual" because there is a visual that doesn't correspond with our visual "reality." It's all in a little box, not out in the "real world."

Phooey. It's real. The voice isn't IN a phone, it's real. The phone is simply a connection device, and so is the computer. The people inputting and uploading the information are very real, and the information is their voice. That's why it's so important to be honest when it comes to social media and marketing. It's all just like stepping out your front door and joining a big world party, person-to-person.

I think it's really cool, even if a little surreal, that all of this happened instantly in an online community. It has helped me to process some very sad and shocking news much better than simply not being able to make it to the "real" wake.

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