Sunday, October 9, 2016

Social Networking & Tragedy

2009: I'm still debating ever posting this, or just writing to get these thoughts down.  
2013: Its now been 4 years since he died.  Rereading still brings tears...not posting this year.
2016: I have re-read this every year.  Litsa, his long-time partner wrote a book about this that you should buy.   

October 2009:
As Facebook and all the other social network sites become more and more a part of our lives, they sometimes then become part of deaths.

I'd only met TJ "Bear Attack Guy" Langley a few times. He had been in several plays my brother directed. But really, how can you forget the guy who literally survived a bear attack with the scars to prove it.

So he was in several friend-of-a-friend connections.

I first heard something was wrong through Facebook on a Thursday as his long-time girlfriend and best friend was posting information that he was missing. He'd gone on a solo hike in the Cascade mountains in Washington State and was 48 hours overdue. I would check throughout the day, seeing as more little bits of information came in; search and rescue starting their actions; finding his car at the trailhead.

By Thursday night, getting dark and I knew searches would stop; it was more and more worrying. More of the same all through Friday, people exchanging hopes and prayers that there would be a happy ending and the search increasing.

By Friday night and Saturday morning, my wife and I were really scared. Being realistic, even a small accident that prevented him from walking out would have been Tuesday, and with the ever colder fall weather and not sure how many days of supplies he'd have it was scarier and scarier.

Finally Saturday evening we saw the news--this time via the newspaper websites instead of Facebook--that his body had been found. Everybody stopped posting at that point, none of the "RIP TJ" posts appearing until the next day.

Thanks to Facebook, I did know what was going on...I might not have heard anything otherwise.

My two complaints: "Facebook, 'like' isn't the only choice for commenting on a status update."
* Took long enough, but there are more choices now than Like.

And it was heartbreaking as my wife (fairly new to Facebook herself at the time) was confirmed as a friend of Litsa's after we'd heard the tragic news--and in the "suggested friends" list TJ was listed as another suggested friend.

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