Love and Loss on Twitter

A group of us lost a Twitter friend recently.

We’re perplexed about what has happened and we’re afraid to move toward mourning because of what that implies.

All of us in the twittersphere adore Twitter (when it’s working).

Regularly I read tweets about how surprised we all are at the relationships that develop on Twitter. We meet people who share common interests and experiences. Before we know it, we’re confiding our joys and our sorrows to these new friends whose full names we may not even know.

We can go onto Twitter at almost anytime day or night and find a friend with whom we can joke, discuss issues, pour out frustrations, enthuse about a book we’re reading or concert we’ve just come from, flirt, cry, find support, kibitz, or just chatter.

I find it difficult to understand the nature of the intimacy that develops so quickly among us. Part of it may be the semi-anonymous nature of the relationships. Sure, once we put something on Twitter it’s there for the world to see. Yet we don’t seem cognizant of that when we tweet.  Primarily what we seem to be experiencing is a conversation with good friends. But because it is semi-anonymous and we really don’t know each other as we do the family and friends that we have on Facebook, we’re prepared to lower our inhibitions.

As I make reference to lowered inhibitions, your mind is probably racing to the sexually-explicit examples that appear from time to time in the press. But, I believe, of much more frequent and profound significance are the lowered inhibitions that allow us to pour out our grief at a personal loss, or our anger at a betrayal by a loved one, or the loneliness of having lost our partners. Many of us may feel reluctant about excessively burdening our family and close friends with these problems. Now, we have Twitter where we can go and at anytime find support. Having recently joined the ranks of the widowed, I’ve been amazed at how supportive other widows and widowers on Twitter are to me and to each other.

So, we’re developing these intimate Twitter relationships that are becoming quite important in our lives.

But what we haven’t yet experienced much and hence haven’t yet reflected on is what happens when we lose one of those Twitter friends.

That’s what has happened to a group of us recently. Our Twitter friend used to be a regular part of our conversations. Then, he wasn’t. We all started noticing his absence. One day, when we clicked on his Twitter name, the riveting response came “This user does not exist.” OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We know his Twitter account and his first name but that is about it. There is no way for us to contact him, to find out if he is okay, to see if something serious has happened. The fact that he is elderly has heightened our anxiety.

We’re not ready to conclude the worst. We have no way to ascertain whether it is the worst. And so we’re left in this ambiguous place.  

Twitter has opened up wonderful new intimate and meaningful relationships for us.

Twitter love we have.

Dealing with Twitter loss is a whole other thing.

* * *

Information about my memoir August Farewell and my novel Searching for Gilead is available on my website at 

Both books can be ordered through on-line retailers including,,,,



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12 responses to “Love and Loss on Twitter

  1. Mindy Ross

    I actually shed tears for a commn poster on the San Diego Reader websie when I found out he died from cancer. He was’t all that nice to me, but after three years, he was like family.

  2. MIndy Ross

    I must be getting tired. I meant "comment" poster, "website," and "wasn’t."

  3. Something to think about when we’re making out our wills? To include our social sites to be notified?Very touching post btw. I hope you find your friend safe and hale.

  4. PeeOnYourShoe

    Yes, David. I know of wich friend you’re talking to & I miss him SO MUCH. All I hope is he’s fine, cause I care a lot about him! And yes, I wasn’t prepared. No one of us was. Obviously you received the gift to express feeelings. At least mine! Thanks so much for your words. You’re really adorable!!

  5. Mindy Ross

    <html> <head> <style><!– .hmmessage P { margin:0px; padding:0px } body.hmmessage { font-size: 10pt; font-family:Tahoma } –></style> </head> <body class=’hmmessage’><div dir=’ltr’> &nbsp;I lost the only man I’m ever going to love or who is ever going to love me&nbsp;when I was very young.&nbsp; Nothing or nobody is ever going to replace the loss.<br>&nbsp;<BR><div></div></div></body></html>

  6. Antoinette Cook

    how very sad,sometimes wonder how i would feel if i lost contact with a twitter friend, i have only been on twitter for a year, but you do get used seeing tweets from regulars,sad i hope your friend is ok

  7. This is an excellent article about a phenomenon that is actually confronting those of us who communicate virtually. Twitter is the latest of these – but I recall my son’s distress when he heard that one of the team he used to wargame with in America had been killed in Iraq.I think you very aptly describe the whole sense of bonding we feel when confiding with fellow Twitterers – even if they are not totally aware of the full import of those 140 character messages we send.

  8. This is a very thought-provoking and relevant post David. Twitter interactions take on a whole new dimension of friendships so losing that voice would definitely be noticed. Very interesting issue to ponder.

  9. Dear David, My heart goes out to you for this post. ‘We’re not ready to conclude the worst. We have no way to ascertain whether it is the worst. And so we’re left in this ambiguous place. ‘ How well I know your pain. For me, even knowing that the worst happened with two online friends, I have a weird sensation still that it cannot be. (Five years later…) I hope that you find your friend safe and well somehow, or that somebody informs you to allow you to recognise and grieve the loss. Best wishes to you and all concerned, Casey

  10. David,I recently went through this myself with a Facebook/Twitter friend. He had also asked many of us for our email addresses, so we had that additional level of group communication. He disappeared suddenly off Facebook and wasn’t returning emails. Fortunately, his Twitter account was still active, and he has tweeted occasionally. This is a whole new type of grief, one at which we may never truly know the real circumstances. Perhaps our missing friend’s account has been hacked and had to create a new account, and has not caught up with the original contacts;Perhaps our missing friends is just on media overload and is disconnecting for a while. We may never know.

  11. I love what you write here and I think that all of us using twitter can relate to it. Thank you for putting into words what I have felt and thought of my relationship to twitter

  12. Cherry

    My sister, an avid Tweeter with many followers, died suddenly a year ago. She had many friends on Twitter, most of whom she’d never met in real life. Never the less, she talked about them a lot, sharing their anecdotes, tweets & news. It was a big part of her life. When she died I had her unlocked phone & accessed her account to inform her followers of her passing. My family and I communicated with her followers via her account leading up to her funeral. They organised a “twitter wreath”, messages from her followers printed onto slips of paper and formed into a wreath. Several of her twitter friends attended her funeral and were a part of the ceremony laying their wreath on her casket. I met many wonderful, warm, caring people that day. They were shocked, heart broken, sad at losing someone many spoke to daily. The incomprehension that such strong bonds had formed without ever having met, and then lost, distressed & confused some, amazed others. We were truly blessed to meet her friends. It further identified who she was and they were a mark of her character. A year later, I still occasionally tweet with those wonderful friends, many marking her recent anniversary with kind messages, even sending “thinking of you” cards. Their support has been so welcome. It was fortunate we could reach out, let them know they’d lost a friend and for them to share their grief. It meant closing chapters for us all. It is true that the semi anonymity of social media allows us to be braver, bolder, more intimate, more honest & the reward is often enduring friendship. Without closure on such friendships it must leave many bewildered, concerned, even afraid when one of their friends disappears. I feel so fortunate I had the opportunity to acknowledge my sister’s friends, include them in our grief and provide some closure for us all.
    Another interesting point is in these circumstances is what happens to people’s accounts when they pass. With no twitter password or personal email details for my sister, her account remains open, if not active. In a way, I like that she is still “there”. In another way it sometimes really annoyed me that she was still getting more #FF Follow Fridays than I was 6 months after she’d died! Nothing like a little sibling rivalry to keep her always in my mind. And this is something she would have thought absolutely hilarious!

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