Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Our Impact in the Digital Age

I've been thinking lately about the impact a person can make on others.  I've written before how my grandparents' quiet, every-day actions helped the people around them.  A word, a card, a pie, a hand - little things that touched their neighbors and their world.

But in the digital era, it can go even farther.  Something I say online can help (or hurt) a person I've never met.  I've been touched by others' blog posts or comments and have forged friendships with other bloggers, even if we don't know each other in person. You exchange comments, emails and laughs.  You get to know a person through their posts and pictures.

This struck me with force this past week when I heard about the death of an online acquaintance.  I knew Robert Rainey through the Slow Travel forums.  We bantered on the same topics often, and shared views or dissented travel options over the past several years.  We had friends in common, so while I hadn't met Robert, I knew him.  We'd interacted.  I knew his tastes and opinions on several subjects, as well as his sense of humor.

So it came as a shock to hear that Robert had been brutally murdered in his office in Los Angeles.  He was a chiropractor, a nice guy, full of energy and enthusiasm.  And yet he was senselessly beaten to death.  Perhaps for money; maybe a drug-crazed creep.  Who knows.  I hope they find out; I hope they find the person who did this to a 54-year old caring individual. 

I read the news on Facebook in the morning, and it stayed with me all day.  I had that gut-wrenching feeling in my stomach; I shook my head at the thought, the unbelievable thought that this happened to a person I knew.  Even if I didn't know him.  I felt sorrow for his family and for those at Slow Travel who will miss his presence and his input.  I felt despair; I felt sad.

And it struck me again how we touch people's lives without even realizing it.  So I want to tell you, my friends, how much I appreciate you.  Your words, your comments, your jokes, your emails, your phone calls.  Even if we haven't met in person, you've been here with me through the adventures and trials.  And I thank you.

11 comments:

Nikki P said...

That is a startling story, but it really does get you thinking, huh? I mean, it is amazing how well you can get to know someone via the Internet. I feel that even though some people consider it too "digitalized," we can actually get to know people by chatting/emailing/texting (perhaps even) better than we would by talking face-to-face, because online we can gain insight to what others are really thinking.

Anonymous said...

Valerie,

Sorry to read of the loss of your friend.

ytaba36 said...

I'm another one who 'knew' Rob through his participation on Slow Travel, and because of his love of Venice. I do hope they find whoever committed this senseless crime.

Yvonne

janie said...

I am so sorry to hear this. What a terrible waste.

Jennifer Pina said...

Beautiful post Val & you are so right. Sorry to hear about this tragedy with your friend.

Janine said...

Valerie, what a shocking story. I am so sorry. Having just met two blogging friends in real life I totally appreciate ht every real connection and friendship people can have online. In fact when we blog and put out heart and soul and passion into a subject like Italy it's a very very strong bond. Thanks for such a special post. xx

Linda @ Ice Tea for Me said...

Valeria, thank you for posting about RR. I had missed it on the ST message board; shocked doesn’t begin to describe how I feel, what a loss.

You’re spot on about how through the interest we interact with people all over the world, have personal relationships but we never meet in person. I’ve gone to a few ST GTGs but with what happened to Robert I feel I need to make more of an effort to meet more of the ST gang.

Susie L said...

Valerie, when I learned of RR's brutal fate, I felt exactly the same way. I felt as if I had known him for years. Thank you for articulating your feelings so well, feelings many of us STer's share.

BTW, we have a shared love of Ascoli Piceno. I have felt for many years that I could happily live there.

Thanks for blogging, I need to comment and show my appreciation more often.

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

This is such a sad and shocking story that I did not get to hear about straight away as we were in the UK and away from our digital world. You are so right about the relationships that can be built this way.

Anonymous said...

I understand how you are feeling as I too interacted with Robert on SlowTrav. It took a week to shake the overwhelming sadness. RR as we knew him was a determined hiker/runner, was bound to succeed at getting dress-up clothes for La Fenice after hiking the Dolomites, and was so kindly concerned about having enough nice wine glasses for a GTG in a Venice rental apartment that he so kindly initiated. It is only on his death that we've found out about his other many kind acts. We are friends by crossing paths, and as in RR's friendship, by our connection on-line. Your posting reaffirms this. Hugs, the other Valerie

AlanP said...

I didn't know Robert, but I was touched by your story. We are all fortunate to have opportunities to know people like Robert. We're able to learn and share with others unlike any time in our history. Thank you Valerie, for reminding us how important those relationships are.