A few weeks ago, I came to the conclusion that I had cracked that little domestic mystery that haunts only very few of us — why did Twitter change? Why was old Twitter (of around 2008-2010) a pleasant place full of everyday people and why is present-day Twitter a cesspool of neurotic behaviour and vile hate?
The conclusion I came to was that the internet is no longer a place of “friends”. You don’t go online for relationships. You do so for news and information. Sure, there is much talk of connection and conversation, but it is just advertising. The networks don’t care about connection. They want your attention, yes. Any friendship that might happen despite it is just incidental these days. If friendship survives, it is not as a result of the kind of place the internet is anymore. It’s despite it.
This morning, I woke up to the sad news that my Twitter friend of 10 years — @roshnimo — had passed away. News of death always hits hard. Perhaps a little harder when that someone has been a more-or-less regular presence in your life through the coming and going of Bloglines and Desipundit and Friendfeed and a dozen other platforms.
Turns out, it was an invite from me that got @roshnimo on Twitter. I am not sure how — some comment thread somewhere I guess. A bunch of us were on a dozen different platforms back in the day. This was 2008 and you could count on one hand the number of Indians on the platform. In fact, it was a medium-sized deal to find people with Indian names on Twitter. Naturally, the community that grew out of this was tight. There are literally thousands of little interactions between @roshnimo and me spread out over this last decade and because I never met her in the flesh, these little bits and pieces of conversation are all that I have to remember her by.
I understand a lot of these seem like fragments to those reading them for the first time and that’s understandable. But this was a friendship — more than the sum of these parts. I am glad to have had it. I am sad to no longer have this friend. I am sad that in the coming days and months and years, I will no longer be greeted by her username in my DMs and replies and emails (she used to be the first to ask “what’s wrong?”, often even on email, whenever I tweeted a frustration). I hate the finality of this and the fact that there is no way out of it.
This is goodbye then @roshnimo — I will miss your presence. I wish you were still here. You were a friend and you always will be. And even though my sadness at your passing is small in comparison to that which people in your family must be going through right now, it is by no means insignificant.