In a previous post Will you be my friend? I asked the question
“Should one maintain separation from one’s online friends, or take the risk of meeting in person should the opportunity arise?”
The reason for my asking the question, although I didn’t state it openly at the time, was that I was planning a quick visit to the UK to visit family and wondered if there may have been some of my online ‘friends’ who would like to meet up while I was there.
In the short time that I had been blogging I had become part of a friendly little circle of writers who frequently visited and commented on my blog, and whose blogs I visited and commented on. Sometimes we would have quite in-depth discussions about a range of topics, and these discussions would often spill over onto Twitter. Few days would go by when we weren’t communicating with each other in some way and we were developing a certain amount of comfort with each other and our discussions.
Since some members of this group lived in the UK, I wondered if it might be fun to meet up with them in person but was concerned about what might happen to our online relationship if I didn’t live up to their expectations or we didn’t get along in face-to-face conversation.
I decided to ask the question via my blog to see what responses I would receive, and indeed to see if any of those I was thinking about contacting would respond and give me an inkling about their thoughts on the matter.
The responses I received were encouraging.
Joanne, who blogs at Writeaway, said that she had met one of her online friends in person. It obviously went well because she said that she wouldn’t be averse to meeting others though she considered geography to be a restriction. I had thought about that too, for although it’s a long way from Australia to the UK, travel distances within the UK could still be great and, while I was going to be based in London, I didn’t know where my friends lived.
Bec, who blogs at There’s no food and Ziggy the Three-Legged, Wonder Dog, said she believed there was a lot of value in online friendships. I knew she would because she and her partner of almost ten years met online! I wasn’t looking for a partner though. I already had one of those!
Gina Stoneheart, who blogs at Walking in the Write Direction, one Story at a Time, shared her story of meeting a friend on Twitter through following the same favourite children’s book author. They live close enough to meet up in person. She also met her partner online.
However she did have some words of caution. She said,
“Make sure you have spoken with them on the phone and have had quite a few emails exchanged. Also, see lots of pictures of them! You never know… there are some crazy people out there!”
Although, like Joanne citing geography as a restriction, Gina’s strong recommendation was to ‘go for it’.
Terry Tyler, blogging at Terry Tyler, said that she had met a few online friends in real life and had even “ended up marrying one!” Although Terry said that meeting online friends wasn’t something she would go out of her way to do, when she does meet them she really enjoys it.
Kimmie, who blogs at Stuckinscared, said that she had met some online friends and, although she had felt close to them online, she was still nervous about meeting them face-to-face but is glad that she did; and would meet others if “courage and circumstances” allowed it.
Hope of Nanny SheCanDo has met quite a few of her online friends and is glad she did; and Donna Marie from Writer Side UP! said that she has many online friends she would love to meet up with if she had the chance.
The only one (from the little group that I was thinking about contacting) to respond to my question was Geoff Le Pard who blogs at TanGental. He was enthusiastic because, he said, he loves meeting people and talking. He suggested there would be risks such as people not being as articulate in person and jeopardizing the relationship that had already formed. But he also said there would be the benefit of not being constrained by the ‘blog and comment structure’ so the conversation could be more organic, flowing from one topic to another.
The eight responses to my question were overwhelmingly encouraging so I decided to go for it.
I was delighted to receive an enthusiastic response to my rather tentative request from all four friends that I contacted: Anne Goodwin, Lisa Reiter, Geoff Le Pard, and Caroline Lodge. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to arrange a suitable time or place with Caroline, but Anne, Lisa, Geoff and I exchanged a flurry of Tweets and emails and were able to arrange a time and place that suited us all.
Norah, Anne, Geoff, Lisa beside the lock
We had a wonderful afternoon and evening together, meeting at the British Library for lunch and doing a little sightseeing afterwards. I even “took” them somewhere that none of them had been before (and probably won’t again!) I got to see a canal lock in action for the first time! (We don’t have those in Australia.)
It was great: more like catching up with old friends than a meeting of strangers. There was not an axe murderer among us, and no one made an excuse for a hurried retreat until after a tube ride to Covent Garden and dinner, when it was time to catch the late trains back home.
For me, meeting up with this group of online friends, was a memorable experience which I am very pleased I took a risk in initiating. I think the reason it worked is that we already knew each other quite well through our lengthy online discussions, and we were all keen to meet. The friendship moved out of the imagination and into reality.
Anne, Geoff and Lisa and a floating bookshop
These positive feelings gave me the confidence to arrange a meeting with another online friend when I travelled to Tasmania shortly after arriving home from the UK. I met up with Sue Wyatt who hosts a Student Blogging Challenge. Although Sue and I hadn’t had a great number of in-depth conversations, we had exchanged a few Tweets and comments and had a lovely morning together discussing two of our shared interests: education and blogging!
So, combining the recommendations in the responses to my questions with the results of my action research, I would agree strongly with Geoff who finished his comment with the words:
“Depends on your attitude to taking risks. Personally I’d welcome the chance of the upside.
It was definitely an upside for me, and I’m pleased I took the chance.
I welcome your feedback. Please share your thoughts. It’s not too late to tell us about meeting your online friends!