I’ve been trying to write one of two blog posts I owe all morning but can’t get past the sad and unexpected news that Brian Towle, one of the managers over at Corn Nation, died last night. So I decided to do something I don’t do enough when I’m brought low by life...write about it.
I didn’t know Brian all that well. Certainly not as well as other members of our staff or others in the SB Nation community did. I always found him to be a great guy in our limited interactions, but I was struggling to figure out why his death was hitting me as hard as it was given how I didn’t know him very well overall. And then I realized why...Brian was part of my internet family.
When you write online for an extended period of time, your internet family becomes really important. Many times they become as important as your IRL (in real life) family and friends. In my opinion, I don’t think there’s really a “IRL” distinction to be made a lot of the time. Doing so is almost a default type of explanation I’ve gotten used to giving to those around me who don’t spend a lot of time in online communities. To me, the “IRL” distinction is simply a description of the fact that some of the important people in my life are simply individuals that I’ve never gotten to meet in person. There are people on staff at TDG who I’ve never met who I would be devastated to lose. The interactions and relationship we share across online mediums are something I take great joy and support from. The same can often be said for people in the TDG comments or even Twitter.
Brian may not have been someone I was super close to in any of these mediums but his voice was one I had grown accustomed to seeing online through his writing and through his tweets. His was an online presence I enjoyed. It was that presence that made me feel at ease for him over the last week he was in the hospital, that things were going to be ok for him even though I didn’t know that as a certainty. Instead today he’s not here in a way that feels so wrong somehow. It makes me think about losing a member of the TDG family, a thought I hate. But more than that, I feel for his wife, and kids, and family, and friends (IRL or internet) who are missing a whole person in a way I know I’ll never understand and that I hope I don’t have to experience for many years.
And so I’m just here, sad for a lot of people and a lot of reasons, writing to try to get things right in my mind. There’s a running joke among the TDG staff about me saying “I LOVE Y’ALL!” when I’m watching a game. Long story short, I got drunk on Surly while attending Minnesota/Oregon State last fall and I wrote that to our staff a bunch of times because reading what they wrote in our Slack chat was making me very happy. And it’s a sentiment that I want to share with all of you because it’s true here too.
“I LOVE Y’ALL!”
Life is short and fleeting and all those other things we all recite when bad things happen. So I guess my big takeaway today is to never stop being happy about the positive interactions I have with people here or on Twitter or anywhere else. Internet families are real, and I know I’m not the only one who hopes theirs doesn’t lose someone like Brian again for a long time.