Software

Work, the Internet, and the ties that bind us

When you lose someone, whether you bonded with that person over work or in an online forum, the grief is the same.

I got a message through Facebook this morning that broke my heart. OldMycroft, one of my Facebook "friends," and a long-standing member of the TechRepublic online community passed away. News of his passing was a blow even though I'd never laid eyes on the man. That's because he was such a fixture in the TechRepublic forums and he and I often exchanged emails concerning the topics I wrote about in the Career Management blog. In fact, it was only a couple of weeks ago that he and I were commiserating on Facebook about our shared allergies to tree pollen.

Last month, a man I worked with for several years at a previous company passed away. What might have been sad news about a former close associate was more acutely felt because he and I had kept close tabs on each other by email through the years. In fact, I spoke at his memorial service. In that speech, I referred to the group of co-workers that I lunched with everyday as my "air family" and he was my "air brother." (This was in reference, of course, to the term "air guitar.")

Our work often brings us into contact with people who become some of the most important parts of our lives. With coworkers you share the trials and tribulations and triumphs of a workplace you share. You spend so much of your waking hours with them that you develop a shorthand way of speaking to one another.

Usually, our work friends see the best of us. They don't see us in our grumpy, haven't-had-coffee-yet states. They don't see the sides of us that nag about the laundry not being done and they don't personally share the anxiety about that house payment that is overdue. It's a bond that I don't think is given enough weight.

Online communities are becoming the same way. They start out with the solidarity of shared interests, but so often morph into the development of personal relationships -- relationships that are not diminished by the lack of live, face-to-face interaction. Because email and the Internet have made it so much easier for people to know one another, the type of grief that I'm feeling today may be something I have to get used to.

RIP, OldMycroft.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

2 comments
jaelde
jaelde

My condolences on the loss of your colleague, Toni. For those of us who work alone, our air work buddies are doubly important. I am fortunate to have met some of my colleagues at conferences, but many I have not met and may never meet. Some work in Australia, the UK, and India. I keep photos of them in my office, and they have photos of me. With social networking, it has become even easier to keep these relationships thriving. I like your idea of spending lunch with them. In sympathy, Jeri Hird Dutcher Workwrite www.workwrite.net jeri@workwrite.net

SR5
SR5

I know exactly what you mean. The people I've worked with in so many places, the people I have trained have all been a significant part of my life. Now, most of use never meet in person.. we just get to chat or are facebooking... The best thing that happened to me was that I got in touch with my childhood freinds ...One's I had lost touch with 20 years ago! We don't meet often now, not even the ones that live in the same city, but are happy to stay connected & know what is happening in each other's lives through social media. The Internet can truly connect lives! SR www.hostcats.com

Editor's Picks