It’s been almost nine years since Jeffrey Melton died. On Twitter, he was better known as Nofi. Melton was an early Junto member, a key participant in Twitter Junto discussion. He and I never met in person. I never heard his voice. His death was a unique one for me. It felt unusual in March 2013: a sorrowful, abstract gut punch.
A wise friend once told me you’re never sad about one thing at a time. At the time of Melton’s death I was sad for the loss, sad for his family (he and his wife had a son), and sad at the premonition: short of war (which of course, as I write this, is actual, not hypothetical, and all the closer due to online friendships and news), we may very well lose many more people than our parents lost. It will be a different loss than they experienced, much as people who never leave their hometowns have different personal connections than those who go away for school, who travel, and who settle somewhere else, if they settle at all.
Nine years after Melton’s death, adoption of online life has spread, scaled, mutated, and become normalized even as it mutates further. I think, perhaps, we’re a little more used to deaths of digital friends now. Not inured, just a little more familiar — a strange gap where there had been a kind of presence, an echo that no longer echoes, a source that has run dry, a potential sounding board that has evaporated, and over time: a memory that always lacked a physical form; a silhouette of a concept that was always, to some degree, a concept.
In 2013, within a week of Melton’s death, we memorialized him in the 66th consecutive weekly Disquiet Junto project, when participants played along with one of his recordings: “Communing with Nofi.”
At the time of this writing, Melton’s Twitter account remains public: twitter.com/nofi. There are a little more than a dozen of his tweets mentioning the Junto, among them ones about his efforts to compile a list of the email accounts of Twitter participants. There are additional ones in which he and I corresponded. In what appears to be the last one, he quoted some language that had come out of the Junto project: “Social music is about participating not promoting.”
Jeffrey Melton was from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and he died in Indianapolis at the age of 42. There’s a brief obituary for him at legacy.com.