Online communities can be sensitive places during a crisis. I wrote in April, for instance, about how the rapid spread of Facebook rumors was robbing some military widows of what small comfort they might have taken from receiving the military’s traditional in-person notification of their husbands deaths.
Wednesday’s killing of four U.S. officials in Benghazi, including U.S. ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, is an example of how an online community can also join together and comfort each other after a tragedy.
Wired’s Robert Beckhusen has an exhaustive account of how communities at the Eve Guild online gaming site and the message board Something Awful have come together to mourn Sean Smith, a Foreign Service Officer killed in the attacks and who frequented the sites using the handle “Vile Rat.”
Since news of Smith’s death broke on the sites, posters have grieved together, shared memories and launched a fundraising campaign for Smith’s family, Beckhusen reports.
Forumer SpaceGirlArt wrote that Smith had “been part of my internet presence for a decade, right back to the old #ce [IRC] channel. I can honestly say that I never expected to feel this gutted over the death of someone that I never met in real life. This is unbelievable.”
EVE Online gamers also are naming virtual space stations in Smith’s honor, Beckhusen reports.