I know a lot of people. If I do /names (listing out all the people on an IRC channel) on the different IRC channels I am on and then remove people I don’t talk to, or who are too inactive, I’m probably still left with somewhere between 150 and 200. Possibly more. Most of them, I don’t really know; I know some of their technical expertise, I know their names, but that’s about it.
Once in a while, however, one gets to know them better. Some, through blogs aggregated through Planet Debian and similar sites. Big and small things: people changing jobs, having children or being sick. It’s a very strange feeling, they’re friends-ish, but not really friends. Some of them, I’ve never met and never will. Always fun to meet them over a beer and doing keysigning or similar geeky stuff when the opportunity comes around.
In a way, I really care about those people. I spend too much time on IRC, so I see people come and go, both through the day and over time. Today, a friend and valuable member of the community said he was going to the doctor. Nothing wrong with that, people go see doctors all the time without being fatally ill. Something in the tone of what he said suggested otherwise, though. I hope he will be fine again, soon.