When Online and Real Life Collide

by Ken Mueller on January 31, 2013 · 17 comments

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Last night I had the pleasure of meeting “in real life” someone that I have known for sometime only from the online world. I’m not sure when I first met Justin Brackett online, but we travel in the same marketing circles and have a lot of friends in common. Justin lives in Asheville, NC, and about a month ago Justin informed me that he was going to be in my neck of the woods for a speaking engagement, and wanted to know if we could get together. And boy am I glad he did.

When Justin finished up in the afternoon he drove the half hour from southern Lancaster County up to my place and picked me up. I gave him a quick tour of the city of Lancaster (which he loved) and then took him out to dinner to a restaurant that is client of mine (which he also loved).

But the cool thing about it is that even though all of our interactions up until have been online, getting together and hanging out seemed so natural. There weren’t any of the “awkwards” as I like to call them. No nervousness, no wondering what the other person would be like. Well, I can’t speak for Justin, but I had a great time and really enjoyed the conversation. We talked about our families, our backgrounds, our work, and a variety of other things. We shared triumphs and war stories related to our respective businesses.

Why?

Because many of the online relationships we have are real, despite what the Manti T’eo story might lead us to believe. Over the past few years I’ve developed strong personal and professional bonds with people whom I’ve never met in person. And when I do meet them in person, it’s not a disappointment. You know how you have that good friend from high school or college you haven’t seen in years? And when you reconnect, you pick up where you left off. That’s what this felt like; as if Justin and I had known each other for a long time. In our discussions via G-chat or Google Hangout and the like, we got to know each other. We knew that we actually had quite a bit in common. I know that Justin is the kind of guy I could bounce ideas off of, and I would do the same for him.

As you meet people online and interact with them, publicly or privately, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, the comment section of blogs, or some form of chat program, get to know them. Really know them. Then find ways to meet them.

The first step in this is acknowledging that what happens online IS real life now. To separate the two is a false dichotomy.

Then take it a step further. Be intentional about building relationships and meeting those same people. If you’re anything like me, there are probably a lot of people you know locally online, but have never met in person. Get out there and get together with them. Grab some coffee with a group. And enjoy those friendships.

 

 When Online and Real Life Collide
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17 comments
profkrg
profkrg

I love meeting my online friends in real life. These meetings (or even phone or Skype conversations) really add to the networking experience. It's such a blessing.

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MargaretNahmias
MargaretNahmias

To me, it is a like a modern version of penpaling. Of course a handwritten letter might have been safer but the idea is the same, interacting  with some you have not personally met.

girlseeksplace
girlseeksplace

I love when I get to meet my online friends in real life. It doesn't happen too often, since most people I meet online don't live in my city. It's perfectly safe to meet online connections in real life, though, because online is real life. Obviously, there needs to be a certain amount of awareness, but it's not something to fear. I know someone who is scared just because that's what feels right, but she's missing out on so many amazing adventures because of that fear. It's becoming a real problem and preventing her from living any kind of life.

mdyoder
mdyoder

Thanks for this post, Ken. I especially like your point about acknowledging that what happens online is real life. But, even more so, I like the point you made about being intentional about building relationships. I think too often people are more apt to be hap hazard in their online interactions.

LizJostes
LizJostes

Coffee wouldn't cut it. You've teased us all with Character's Pub TOO much! ;-)

KDillabough
KDillabough

I met Justin when he was in Toronto, and it felt like we'd known each other for ages. I believe that when we forge solid relationships online, there are few surprises when we meet IRL, especially if we've video skyped or "hung out" online. I value my online friendships, so much so that I'm planning a trip to Europe for a "girls getaway" with a friend I've come to know online. Risky? Will we get along in each other's company? I'm confident we will. And what a wonderful way to broaden one's horizons and have some FUN. Cheers! Kaarina

Erin F.
Erin F.

I wish the distance between Texas and Pennsylvania wasn't such a large one. It would be nice to meet in person. As to the point of meeting local people, I'm trying to do a better job of that this year. 

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

Excellent - 'some of my best friends are online.'  And I mean that.  With Skype and Hangouts, I feel like I HAVE met them in real life.  You are also right about focusing - just like IRL, you can only have so many meaningful relationships.  Great post.

ExtremelyAvg
ExtremelyAvg

You are definitely right about separating the two and how it is completely unnecessary. I had a project in Second Life a number of years ago. I hired seven people at $30.00 per hour to work on the build and they did so for several months. I'd not met any of them in real life, but I felt just as connected as I do anyone else. Each of the workers had a strong track record of building and I knew what I was getting. The project was a success and I only ever met two of them in person after that. The other mostly lived overseas. Still, I have fond memories of that project and consider them all to be friends.

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KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@girlseeksplace with all the privacy issues and other concerns, I understand why some people are scared, but this is a whole new world. I think in the long run, this can make us all better people.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@mdyoder agreed. and there is something for letting things evolve organically, but in some cases it really helps to be more intentional

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@LizJostes And yes, I took Justin to Character's. And he enjoyed it. Don't be jealous.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@KDillabough I feel the same way: very few surprises. Meeting Justin was just very natural.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@Erin F. Keep at it. I'm trying to be more intentional about meeting the locals, and I love when I can meet people from far away.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@AmyMccTobin Exactly. I've got quite a few online friends I consider good friends and can't wait to meet them.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@ExtremelyAvg I never really got the Second Life thing, but I have some friends who were really into it, and had similar experiences.

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