Some people, when talking about the interwebnet, like to contrast it with "real life", as though somehow the mediated nature of it stopped it from being "meaty" enough to count. Some like to pretend that it's all just a game, that they invest nothing, as though this wasn't something people do in "real life" anyway.
Others think of it as just one of the many things they do, with the interactions it involves as "real" as any other, as valuable or as worthless as you make them. Much of our lives is routine or minimally engaging. They'd probably be unliveable if it were otherwise. Most of my interactions on the interwebnet are worthless too, as it happens, or nearly so. I don't put much into them and I'm not really so much looking to learn anything as confirming what I already know. Why I bother is largely a mystery to me. I mostly put it down to just killing time. I certainly don't waste too many hours in analysing it. Whether I should is one of the questions I don't dwell on.
Some interactions are, of course, more than that. Some people become more than screen names. Some a lot more, some just enough to have a tangibility. Naturally, I do not know the people behind the names; nor do I want to. I know them for what they are here, how they choose to be (or at least in so far as they are able to project themselves).
So does it feel bad when a star in our firmament blinks out? Does it depend on how big a star it was from my point of view? Well, people come and go. But they do in "real life" too, and still we mourn them when we read a line in the local paper and think "Oh, him", even if our mourning goes no further than that (and perhaps to think that if we had done that drink back in 19whatever, we might have had more of a friendship -- but regrets are part and parcel of knowing one another: none of us can hope to make all the right choices, do all the right things, because with so many choices it only becomes apparent what was "right" after the event).
But the guy in the paper shot through my life because we didn't connect. We found nothing between us that made the other worth knowing. That is a cold calculation we often make with people who are peripheral to us. If we do not, we become one of those horribly vain people, who have enormous circles of "friends", whose acquaintance is shallow and unsatisfying, and who have learned, as part of acquiring that circle, not to care whether they actually like anyone.
Whenever you do connect with someone, their passing means there is one less soul that shares an understanding of you (by which I mean something that goes beyond the upfront persona). That is a real loss (especially if you are difficult to understand).
I am sorry Rick has died. I will remember him by playing Neon lights loud enough for the whole street to hear and I will of course include within me the piece of him that connected with me and that I understood, although time, and his passing, have not allowed it to be more than a little corner of the whole man.