June 27, 2011
There's a funny thing about this new age of technology– at some point you may want to leave your screen and meet the people you've fallen in love with and touch them to make sure they aren't killer robots or Nigerian gay doctor lawyers. The final leap of faith.
In many ways it's easier than ever to build relationships through our little screens. They feel real, they matter. Those strangers creep into your heart and turn from meaningless typed messages into a person you actually care about very dearly. The internet is important but it's never really the same as sitting on the couch with a good friend. Well, sometimes it's better, who are we kidding! I can internet in my dirty gaucho pants eating stale cereal watching 40 hours of movies. Rare is the person who would do that with me in person. So rare that I married the one I found. Despite that I still feel driven to put real faces with the avatars, as if that will make things more official. I like you enough to deign to look upon your face. You win the internet.
That's the final "official" step, in part because it's much easier to explain a friendship when you don't have to start it out with, "this girl I talk to on twitter..." which is always followed by, "well have you me him/her?" and, "no." and you get that look. (This goes in the same folder as, "oh, that happened to someone I know!" and "a friend of mine does blah blah blah!" followed by, "oh, how do you know them?" ... "i read their blog." It's a strange new world we live in. Good luck telling your mom about it.)
And yes, that final step can also go horribly wrong. Sometimes you find out that you... really don't want that person sitting on your couch after all. Reality bites. Ignorance can be bliss.
I've been through the meetup process a few times before, and again this weekend. No one ever quite looks like their photos, it's true, no matter how many you've seen. (In some cases, they're much better! Too cruel to be so lovely! I am a monster!) Cameras can never capture our essence in action; still shots rarely translate soul power. I wonder how different I look from my own pictures, what I seem like from the outside.
On the other hand the internet can help mask personalities to keep social life well lubricated and running smoothly. Outgoing/slightly irritating people can be held at a distance, shy people come out of their shells, non-talkers are forced into communicating. When presented with the same people in person the dynamic can be different. Less, more, weird, loud, quiet. Under stress it's hard enough to be yourself anyway, let alone when trying to make a good impression.
If you're very lucky things are exactly the way you expected and best friends are born. Those a the precious ones, though then your heart aches when you have to leave them and go back to being faces far away on the screen. After that it's not quite the same, typed words are never enough to fill you up.
There are really only four possible meeting-internet-friend outcomes: 1) They're nice, you're friends. 2) You fall madly in friend-love and curse the distance between you hourly. 3) You actually don't like them. 4) Killer robot kills you dead. Roll the dice!
Anyway, all this to say we traveled to Chicago last weekend to meet internet strangers and stay in their guest room and let our toddler attempt to destroy their blinds. It was lovely and not awkward and I wish they were closer so we could do it again. It gives me hope for the rest of you. If you're just as lovely as you seem someday maybe I will hug you. There's a 74% chance that you won't be the terminator.
on meeting people
on the go|teh internets|thinking|