I have been a blogger since 2006, and have been a member of several online communities since before then. I participate in many forums, about many different topics, and have become online “friends” with a lot of folks from different parts of the country and the world. In many cases, I have met up with bloggers or forum members in the real world. Now, I have to admit, that most of the people I have met in real life so far have been full time RV’ers, people who like myself and my husband, live in RV’s and travel around the country. A lot of the time, if we didn’t have our online “friends” we wouldn’t “talk” to anyone other than our spouse for days at a time.
But what about when the online community you belong to includes young moms–people who have the lives of their children to think about before they venture out to meet you in person–that previously anonymous face in the forum? Do you go out and meet someone in public, that you only know online, when you have your children with you? Today I had arranged to meet one of my forum buddies, a young woman in Mississippi who is a member of the same bloggers club I belong to. In this club, we exchange information on how to make money with our blogs.
I have referred her to reps for review opportunities, and sent her information to agents who wish to purchase advertising on blogs. She has done the same thing for me, and in fact, she has helped me learn so much about how to monetize and get my blog information out there, that I wanted to meet her and take her to dinner. The problem was that her husband was out of town, and he did not feel comfortable having her meet a perfect stranger off the internet when she was alone with her two kids.
At first, I was crushed, and felt like crying. I felt like I had been accused of being an ax murderer, or something like it. Then I thought, “That guy just loves his family.” After all, all she can tell him about me is that I live in a travel trailer, and I travel around like a gypsy, with no set place to live. He probably thinks I am a nut–a lot of people who aren’t familiar with this lifestyle think that. And then I thought, just the fact that she acted upon her husband’s wishes, and told me she couldn’t meet me, told me quite a bit about this young woman’s character. It told me that she values her husband’s opinion, and that she chooses to act accordingly. That she cares about her family and her children. And that even though it meant having to tell me that she wouldn’t be able to meet me right now, that she still cares about our relationship, too.
I think we ARE a community, online as bloggers and forum members. It’s just a different kind of community. You can be the most honest, upstanding person in the world, or you can be that ax murderer and just SAY you’re honest and upstanding in order to meet your next victim. I get it. I understand that there is the fear out there. And that is something that has existed since online interaction began. I just wish it wasn’t so. I think I missed meeting a very nice person today. I told her: I’m not a baby stealer. They start out smelling good, but eventually they start to stink, and then they turn into teenagers, and I certainly want no part of that!
So, tell me: Have you met any of your online friends in person? If so, were they what you expected them to be? Would you have agreed to meet them if you had young children with you? Do you think we should all be afraid of reaching out and meeting in person?