I again mourn for someone I never met.
He was the brother-in-law of a "Facebook friend" who himself I never met.
And this FB friend could hardly be called an ideological ally. On some things, we're in agreement; on others, we're polar opposites. And let me tell you, those polar opposite opinions have deadly ramifications across the world over. He thinks my course would be deadlier, I think his course would be deadlier.
But that's almost beside the point. My FB friend lost a brother-in-law to an unexpected death. This man was accomplished and respected in his community--I went ahead and read the obit of someone I never knew. It's clear that my FB friend misses him already and will continue to do so.
Would it have been better for me to "unfriend" him because of ideological disagreements? Or to be around and offer some words of condolence when he and his spouse suffers a devastating loss?
Some people whine that networks like Facebook make us spend too much time online instead of engaging in real, physical communities. But that's not my experience, or, I believe, the experience of any other Facebook user. It's not that we're excluding our physical, nearby neighbors for Facebook friends, but we're broadening our horizons through online-friends and/or old friends for whom pen and paper were too time-consuming.
This isn't to say Facebook is the greatest thing ever, but it's what we have, and I appreciate it greatly. I'd rather mourn for too many lost brothers-in-law from online friends than never know they ever existed at all.