My friends list is haunted with names of avatars that have long since disappeared from SL. Some of those people were acquaintances, and some of them, or one or two of them were people I was very close with.
I guess having your friends disappear is a hazard of living part of your emotional life online. It hurts when someone you have shared your time with and care about goes poof from the grid. The not knowing if they are okay is what hurts the most and the worst part is that you can't do anything about it if you don't have their rl contact information.
Even worse, is trying to explain to anyone in your rl that you are missing and worried about your virtual world friend, because that doesn't usually go over well. It just leaves you feeling even more hurt and isolated. For me, it even got to the point where my pent up emotional distress manifested itself as physical pain in my body. Well, not really pain, but this strange feeling of nauseousness in my stomach that I have never experienced before, and I hope to never feel again.
Tonight, I scroll through my friends list and it feels like a graveyard of greyed out names that will never again be lit up with that familiar bold font that tells you "i'm online". I should delete them, but I just can't bring myself to do it and I'm not entirely sure why. It's not because I have any hopes of them ever coming back to SL. I let go of that a long time ago.
I had a conversation with one of those friends once about how fragile online friendships/relationships are, and also the strange dichotomy of forming deep emotional attachments online, but yet there is is still a strange element of shallowness in there. Like, how could these friendships mean anything if they could disappear so quickly? I didn't get what she meant at the time, but I think I get it now.
I suppose I keep those long lost friends on my list because the avatar names are the only tangible proof I have that those friendships/relationships we had were indeed very real, meaningful and substantial...and not shallow.
Even after many months have passed, when I glance through that greyed out section of my list and I come across those ones that abruptly vanished, I still always hope that the real people behind those avatar names are okay, and happy in their Lives.