Online friends – real or imaginary?

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.

applications-internet

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 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!”

ndetavi-lc

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

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

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.

Thank you

 

I welcome your feedback. Please share your thoughts. It’s not too late to tell us about meeting your online friends!

26 thoughts on “Online friends – real or imaginary?

  1. pscottier

    I edited a book with a person I met on-line, only meeting him well into the process, and in another country. I had been working with him and Skyping with him a long while. That was definitely a positive experience.

    Caution is definitely called for in possible meetings arising from on-line communications.

    Interesting post, Norah.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for dropping by and sharing your experience. I agree with you about the need for caution. All the preliminaries you and your online contact had, meant that your meeting was a positive experience. I’m pleased it was.

      Like

      Reply
  2. Bec

    Thanks for the lovely article, Nor! I like how you have collected different perspectives and put them together into a story. I of course value friends I meet online very much! As well as Glenn (and Ziggy’s supportive friends across the world!) my close friends Sam and Mitch are both ‘from the internet’ (as I used to delight in saying when I introduced Mitch to people), and it seems to be becoming more of a norm of our society. I’ve also certainly, if not met, at least gotten to know through your blog so many lovely people – who you’ve met in person now!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. TanGental

    Well, I guess you know I had a perfectly splendid time, Norah. It was brilliant that you grasped that nettle and made us into real 3D complex humans and not the sanitised versions we portray on line. And it was very interesting as an experiment. I’m rather diffident meeting now people which seems slightly contrarian given I love meeting new people and having a good gas. When we met there was a little, understandable distance as we toyed with the reality of becoming actual people to each other. Then Anne appeared and hugged us opening with something reserved and British as ‘I’ve so looked forward to this’. And that was it, we were off. For me blogging was the same and it sounds like it was for Sherri too. It was a little like those old maps where the known world was drawn but at the edges there was a waterfall and, in the unknown areas, ‘Here be dragons’ or some such warning. In the words (sort of) of Donald Rumsfeld I could deal with the known and the known unknowns but I worried about the unknown unknowns. It is pushing into that murky area that tests my comfort zone. Even if experience has shown me only good times. Thank you, formerly and on line for facilitating the meet up.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing the enthusiasm Geoff. I love the way you have described it almost as uncharted waters – the unknown unknowns. It is bit difficult preparing for those. Comfort zones may have been tested but I think it proves that it’s good to stretch the boundaries occasionally. You never know something good might happen! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  4. Sarah Brentyn

    I’ve seen that first picture (on Anne’s blog?) and love it! I’m with you – it’s a bit awkward and has the real possibility of turning out badly. Then what? I was just talking to my son about my “friends” then quickly corrected myself and mumbled something unintelligible like, “Well, not ‘friends’ but, you know, people. I mean people I know from online. Sort of friends but, I guess, not really…you know those people…never mind.” 😉

    I’m so glad you all met up. (Love the floating bookshop!)

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Sarah. You are correct. The photo of the four of us was taken with Anne’s camera and she has previously shared it. I thought the floating bookshop was very cute too and just had to take a photo. I think it would be just great to have a floating bookshop and “sail away for a year and a day”. Yes, I agree. It is difficult to know how to describe our online connections. Some I consider friends, others still acquaintances. It depends how much we share and support each other; just like in ‘real’ life! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  5. writersideup

    Yay for you and getting to meet some online friends! Back in 2005 a group of us who met in the BNU discussions for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, formed our own group to continue our relationships, and our theorizing and anticipation for Book 7. We all wished we could meet at HP World (which, btw, we had been brainstorming about well before the actual people put that into motion) someday. That will never happen, it seems, though a few of us have at least had the opportunity to go. Back then, when one of my HP friends, Saundra, still lived in NYC, we made plans to meet. We met in New Jersey (I live in NJ) in a Barnes & Noble that was not far from the Holland Tunnel. It was great! Our second meeting was for an afternoon at Books of Wonder in Manhattan, and then visiting the Manhattan Barnes & Noble on the day of the release (the midnight parties were that night) of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was all wonderful 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Donna Marie, Thanks for popping over and sharing your stories. I love that you and your friend met at bookshops. What better places than bookshops or libraries for writers and readers to meet up! Your shared love of Harry Potter would have made the Book 7 release celebrations all the more exciting and meaningful. How exciting that you were all thinking about the HP World before it was even real! My niece is mad keen on HP and has just visited having a wonderful time. I think she was hoping for a job at Hogwarts! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
            1. Norah Post author

              There’s never a simple choice – always lots to consider.
              I obviously misunderstood. I thought you were indicating you were close to both worlds.

              Like

              Reply
  6. Annecdotist

    I am pleased you’ve blogged about this, Norah, with lots of links to others’ meet ups as well as our own. I’m so glad you took the plunge as it was lovely to meet you and probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
    I’m sure there’s an etiquette to online friendships as there is with real-life and a need to protect our own boundaries which may be different to others’. Both of these can take some time to learn and master. I was particularly interested in what Sherri has said about her daughter – the Internet is a great way for people who aren’t good at face-to-face to forge genuine friendships.
    For me, it would be about having some common ground as the basis for the friendship.
    I’ll be interested to see what others have to say about this.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you Anne. It was a pleasure to meet you, and though it probably will be, I don’t like to think of it being a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I never like to say never! At least we can meet regularly online and swap stories and ideas. I also found Sherri’s comment about her daughter’s online friendships interesting. Bec had made a similar comment on the previous post. And I agree with you – I’m always interested to hear what others have to say. Thank you for adding your voice to the discussion. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  7. Sherri

    Hi Norah, I saw your post pop up as I was attempting to catch up with a mountain load of emails having been away from blogging for such a long time – two days, ha! – and I was intrigued by your post title so had to come over and take a read as this is a subject I’ve been thinking of writing about for some time. My daughter has Asperger’s Syndrome and her entire social life is online. I really tried to understand this at first, as naturally I worried about her lack of social life outside the home, but her online community is her lifeline to the outside world, until she is able to find ways to cope with her severe social anxiety. It was through the wonderful online friendships that I’ve made through blogging that really helped me understand the true value of my daughter’s friendships. I am biased though, as I met my husband online and I also had the privilege of meeting a blogging friend in March. We had a wonderful time, I posted about it earlier in the year. So if I had read your previous post, I would have definitely said, ‘Yes Norah, go for it!’ Which you obviously did, and what a lovely surprise to read here of your recent meeting with Geoff, Lisa and Anne. Glad it worked out for you all, looks like you all had a wonderful time 🙂 – Sherri

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Sherri and for sharing the importance of online friendships for your daughter. I can understand how they could provide a safe environment for developing interpersonal skills. It’s interesting too that you met your husband online. Seems there’s a few who have done that. I’m pleased to hear you enjoyed meeting up with a blogging friend earlier in the year. I’ll have to look back and find your post about it! Speaking for myself, I can say we all (Anne, Lisa and Geoff) had a wonderful time meeting up. It is definitely a memory to be treasured, and an experience I too would recommend to others. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Sherri

        One day I will write about my experience with online dating, perhaps! I didn’t do it for very long and resolved on the way to meeting hubby that this would be my last ‘date’ because I didn’t feel ready for any of that. But he changed everything in the most unexpected way 🙂 Here is the link to that post Norah, sorry, I should have provided it for you: http://sherrimatthewsblog.com/2014/06/06/blogging-brings-surprises-joy-and-frustration/
        Again, I’m so pleased to know that you all had such a wonderful time, I loved your post 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. Norah Post author

          Thanks for sharing that post Sherri. Your pleasant experience was similar to mine – old friends getting together. 🙂 So much nicer than your neighbour experience. Interesting that you met your hubby on your last date. Is that a bit like finding something in the last place you look? 😀

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
          1. Sherri

            I’m so glad you experienced the same thing when you met the others Norah. Yes, I forgot I linked back to my previous ‘neighbour from hell post’ which I see you also read. Quite a different story that 😮 Thank you so much for reading these ‘old’ posts, it means a lot to me that you would take the time to do so. Re hubby, yes, haha, very much so Norah, you hit the nail on the head, very perceptive of you 😀

            Liked by 1 person

            Reply
  8. Tara Smith

    What a wonderful experience! I have had the best experiences meeting the people I blog with – dear friends now. I think these connections turn out to be so positive because we are sharing so much of how we think and feel about important “stuff” online, so, when we meet, there is an instant feeling of an already established connection.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for popping over and commenting Tara. It was a wonderful experience. I agree with you that the sharing we do online does a lot towards establishing those connections. I pleased that you also have met lovely friends through your blogging experiences. I look forward to meeting more in the future. 🙂

      Like

      Reply

I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s