This is just something I had to get off my chest a long time ago (but only got to it today), so feel free to skip it if ranting about personal issues is something you're not interested in. Thanks. :)
A few years back I met a nice girl online. She became a good friend in just a couple of short months. We clicked like I rarely click with anyone. It was something that awed me, because it literally almost never happens to me like that. Usually I get attached to online friends (and people in general) over time.
Some time later (it all happened in a few months, I think) people had begun to associate us with each other, probably because it's just one of these usual online communities-things. People see two people interact or mention each other and they make assumptions. Kind of like I did, I think.
One day another person I considered an online friend asked me if I'd seen this friend of ours lately. I said no, not since the previous day. Now you need to understand my timezone is European, these people mentioned are mostly in the US. This person told me that my friend had "disappeared".
The first thing was total and utter shock. Wouldn't I know if my friend was going to pull a disappearance-act? Apparently not. The friend had deleted all her accounts everywhere and her email-address wasn't working anymore. I panicked. A dozen other people from the same circles panicked. Everyone panicked.
The person who was missing was a mother of small kids, a married woman. The collective thoughts in the little community were "What happened to her? Are her kids okay? How about her husband? Something bad must have happened for her to just up and leave EVERYTHING behind without a word to anyone."
In the next week, about a dozen people, some I had never heard of before, contacted me in several social media and other sites and by e-mail, asking what had happened to my friend. They assumed I'd know.
Maybe it was the day after or the day of her "disappearance", that I realized one thing: on one site, she had just wiped her account clean, but the account itself was there. So I sent her a private, probably frantic, message. We loved her, we were worried, we hoped everything was fine.
She answered to it. Told me what was wrong in some detail and promised everything was fine, she just needed to have a clear break from everything. She said she never thought she'd make so many people worry with her actions. She asked me to keep the details private, between us, because there were some personal issues in play that she didn't want people to spread around.
That same day I was contacted through my then Twitter-account (not the one I have now) at least three or four times, questions about what was going on etc. I tweeted out a general message that basically said that my friend was fine but needed a clean break. That people should stop worrying, she was fine, her family was fine. It was all okay.
I also sent a short e-mail to the closest friends we shared, about a handful of people who "needed to know". There was nothing revealing in that message. Nothing at all. Basically the same content that was in my tweets.
Then the shit storm hit me like a tidal wave.
Another friend of hers tweeted me. It felt like an attack. She told me to keep my mouth shut, not to spread our friend's private matters like that, the tweet or tweets—I can't remember how many there were—were very hostile. I felt taken aback, to say the least. I felt like someone had slapped me in the face.
I hadn't given any information to anyone. My tweets and the e-mail were to reassure people. I didn't give any details out. None. Yet still this person I didn't even know personally (I'd literally seen her Twitter-handle a few times, never spoken to her at all) decided it was okay to scold me like I was a bratty kid.
The funniest (most tragicomical) thing was that a couple of days later, the person who disappeared had already re-filled the profile she'd emptied before with all the details she gave me privately. She gave out all the reasons for her disappearance act, some very private things.
I felt cheated. Not only had I lost a friend, but I had been told off by someone I didn't know. I felt so fucking betrayed it wasn't even funny. I got punished by something I didn't do, that was then done by someone else anyway.
Slowly, in a course of months, I came to the conclusion I thought more of our friendship than my "friend" ever did.
It's been a couple of years now, but for the first year and a half people popped up here and there, asking me if I knew what was going on in my ex-friend's life. I always told them to ask someone else, to contact anyone but me.
Over a year ago I made a radical decision to cut ties to the community we were both part of. I divided people into two groups. The few people I knew I could be in contact with and not get angry every day, and those I could live without. Some of those cuts were the hardest ones in my online life. Some people I still miss every now and then.
After this whole thing happened, I've been more careful. I keep my emotions in check, I don't trust people, I appear friendly but I'm scared all the time. Scared to lose someone else I hold dear or get attacked by someone else.
Now, I know it sounds stupid when you look at all this objectively. Losing an online friend, so what? Being told off by someone online, so fucking what?
You have to understand that I tend to think people know how to behave. I tend to hope for the best and think that people respect others and their feelings. When I was already shaken by being worried sick about someone I thought as a good friend, and then got viciously told off by a total stranger, I was shocked to the core.
Even to this day, every time I see my ex-friend's name anywhere, I get a jolt of shame, grief, anger and just pure panic. The worst thing is that now she's an author too and we share a publisher. That means I see her name because of what I love to do. She is part of my life whether I want it or not.
She came back, by the way, to the orignal circle of friends and the online community she left back then. She was welcomed with open arms, I've heard. People are happy that she's back.
On the outside everything seems to be fine. I'm not reminded too often, but we have common friends. Social circles overlap. Shit happens.
Feeling like I can't trust people anymore hurts more than anything else. I still miss her quirky sense of humor and the fun times we had, but was it worth feeling this crappy for years? Would I do something differently now?