Massively parallel personal connections

by on Jun.02, 2014, under Observations

A friend of mine, the award-winning author Jay Lake died yesterday. I spent most of yesterday mourning, and watching as people all over the world came together to share their experiences with Jay. It was truly amazing to see how many lives he had touched, how many people felt loss at his passing. However, it also showed us how Jay achieved something I believe truly new, only possible with recent technology advancement. Jay built personal connections on a global scale, in a sense massively parallel Interactions in Real Time.

Consider this: I’ve known Jay for over ten years, but I’ve only actually interacted with Jay something like fifty or so days of that time. We’ve only had personal one-on-one conversations a handful of times. Make no mistake–Jay had a unique ability to build a strong personal connection quickly. And during one of the worst days of my life, Jay personally reached out to comfort me. But when you consider the overall interaction time and period, it does seem out of line that I was crying as hard as I was yesterday. It was worse for me than it would be with many people I’ve interacted with thousands of times.

If you read the eulogies for Jay on Facebook, Livejournal, Twitter and blogs everywhere (author Chaz Brenchley referred to the phenomenon as the day of LJay, Jaybook…) you’ll find people that met him once, or never actually met him, who felt tremendous loss at his passing.

There are many reasons that so many knew him–Jay was a successful and prolific author. He attended many conventions, was outgoing and gregarious, loved meeting people and making connections. However there are many people who fit this description who have not touched so many people’s hearts.

I believe that so many of us who barely knew Jay felt connected to him because he wrote of himself, he shared his joy and his fears with all of us every day. For so many years I knew that every single day when I woke I would have a personal, sometimes intimate in nature message from Jay to read. Jay wrote openly in his blog every day I knew him until cancer robbed him of that ability.

Jay confided to me every day in a manner more personal than most of my daily interactions. I knew Jay better than I know any of my neighbors, better than a great many people I call a friend. I may not have been a very good friend for Jay, but Jay was a great friend for me.

Building friendships over a remote connection is not new. Hundreds of years ago people who never met, or met only once in their lives, shared a personal connection in letters. What is new is how that communication could happen every day, with thousands of people.

So many people lament correctly how we now have increased the volume of shallow communication. Jay Lake did something truly wonderful: he used the same medium to create a deep connection for thousands of people. We all lost a friend who wrote so intimately of himself.

1 Comment for this entry

  • Jo Rhett

    Yes, I am aware that other people are building similar connections with their community. I don’t know any who have been as intimate as Jay was, and I believe it shows in how people are responding to his passing.

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