07 June 2013

A friend indeed. Internet friends are the same as real life friends.

I had written 1000 words on online friendship, and then I lost it. The app crashed. Which doesn't represent the nature of online friendships in my experience. (Salvaged words are never as good as original words, even when they come with double the thinking. But they'll do.)

The friends you meet online are real. The boundaries of "in real life" and on the Internet are broken. The relationships formed online are just as strong as those I've formed at university or the workplace or at a band. And the loss of an Internet friend can hurt just as much as a break up with a friend you've spent years with. Some people don't believe in the validity of online friendships. They're just an avatar. Do you know what they're really like? But I believe in them.

Even though someone I met online and loved for more years than it was worth lied to me about his entire life for six years, I'm not afraid to meet a friend from the Internet. It's not a great unknown anymore.

The Internet allows me many types of friendships. I communicate with people who I see in person on a regular basis. I keep in touch with those I don't see so often. Internet friends have become real life friends. Some real life friends don't set finger or cast an eye on the Internet. And there are many friends I've never met but talk to online most days. And just because I've never met someone in person, doesn't mean I don't value them as much as the ones I've spent years with. Online friends are always there. And they understand the nature of online friendships, never dismissing them.

The gorgeous Nathalie from Easy Peasy Kids - who I've met at various blogging events and talk to online - sent me a beautiful bunch of flowers and a purple unicorn the other day. Such a surprise that brought me happy tears. It's pretty special to get a hand delivered gift from an online friend. Thank you Nathalie :)

Many friends I've met online are friends I now see on a regular basis. My best friends. Like Cam and Tash - our meetings ALWAYS involve food. Guaranteed.

I met Yvonne in Bristol just before my Appearance Matters talk. She and I have been Facebook friends for a couple of years, but before then, I only knew her through the Christmas cards she'd send each year. The best thing is that my Dad and Yvonne are massive Liverpool fans and they used to go to Liverpool matches together in the UK in the 1970s. Dad hasn't seen Yvonne since 1976 - and this year they'll be meeting for the first time in nearly 40 years when Liverpool play Melbourne Victory! So excited for them - and so pleased we connected online.

Some friends I've met in my day job, through working in virtual teams across the country. We call each other for work advice, to debrief and chat on our messenger system. Dane is one of those friends - I had to call him as a part of my day job six or seven years ago, we've kept in touch ever since, and we finally met in real life in March. He is the loveliest.

I also met Tamsin in real life that night - she's the editor of Kiki and Tea - also a colleague if you like. We met initially on Mamamia as commenters and then our friendship flourished on Twitter. Again, she was so lovely in real life. Dane also walked Tamsin back to her bus and they had quite the conversation which she blogged about. :)

One windy Wednesday I met Friday (confused?!) who happened to be in Melbourne from Brisbane. She's a blogger and disability activist, doing wonderful things in her No Permit No Park initiative. Though our time together was only a lunch hour, we talked non stop and still chat most days on Twitter.

Last year a blogger friend Linda messaged me telling me she'd bought tickets to see The Living End in Melbourne on a whim (she's from Perth - and TLE's biggest fan ever) and asked if I wanted to come. We dined at Movida and Fonda, and watched The Living End Play. We also met earlier this year when she came to Melbourne to chase a band again (I LOVE her fandom!). Linda is an amazing writer, and we've bonded over blogging, Darren Hayes and our visible differences. I'm so glad I met this lady!

I was 100% myself when meeting these Internet friends in real life. Unlike some of the awkward Internet dating experiences, I didn't ever feel the need to explain myself or apologise for myself in any way. They already got to know me in great depth online.

I understand the apprehension people may have meeting friends from the Internet in real life. Here's my advice:

  • Meet in a public place or in a group the first time you meet.
  • While I don't think you should lower your expectations, I do think you need to be mindful that your friend may be a little different in person to what they are online. They may be quieter or louder or just the same. That's ok.
  • Be yourself. Isn't that what brought you together as friends in the first place? If you feel stuck for words, chat about the things you chat about online. I swear it's more fun when you can laugh together.

If there's an online friend you want to meet in real life, I encourage you to do it. In most experiences I've had, the real life meeting has strengthened the friendship.

I love how the Internet allows us to meet people with common interests through search terms, blog posts, mutual friends and conversations. I also love how it enables us to meet people we may never stumble across in our daily lives. How often do you chat to the man sitting across from you on the train? How often do you make friends with a stranger on the Internet?

Have you met your Internet friends in person? Did you become closer? What advice would you give people wanting to meet their friends from the Internet?

-

Yesterday Essential Baby picked up one of my Ichthyosis Awareness Month stories - my Mum's story. I made it into a Two of Us type feature. So proud that we are published together on Fairfax. Read it here.

Also, I'm over on iVillage today.

Thanks for having me :)

Happy Friday! It's my first work from home day today - I've got a list and I'm going to get stuff done.

 

10 comments:

  1. I've had the pleasure of meeting you (and tash) in real life. We even got a little tipsy together :)
    It's so wonderful Carly watching you "grow". You are educating, and inspiring people across the globe. You will go far my friend!! Xxx

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  2. The internet has been the most valuable addition to the arsenal for connecting with families affected with ichthyosis. Even in a huge city like Chicago or New York or London, you will only find around 20 affected families. In a smaller city, there might only be a handful, or none at all in a really small town.

    It's hard to have really close friendships when people move every 2-3 years, but the internet makes some of those real life friendships stick, and helps new relationships flourish. Had it not been for the internet, I would never be able to call you friend, even though we've never met in person.

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  3. It's great when a relationship with someone you've clicked with online just extends naturally to offline. And hello Dane! ;)

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  4. I love this post! I've recently had the good fortune to meet some of my online friends! I've had the best fun! It's been wonderful to be able to share things online and then be able to meet these people and realise that our friendships reach well beyond the Internet!

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  6. Congrats in the EB article, Mrs Findlay

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  7. Sorry for double post, comment function isn't working well on my iPad.

    It's a pleasure to count you as a friend online and in real life.

    SSG xxx

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  8. It is wonderful when friendships become real xx

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  9. I have never met anyone I read but in the past 6 months things have been very hard for me and reading all my favorite blogs each day has helped to keep me together.I loved to see Bristol on your blog, thats where I come from although I now live in the south of Frence. Jenny

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  10. I had a crummy meetup with a blogger I thought was genuine but it turns out she had been lying to me and was just overall not a very nice person. I just read your story about the guy you loved and it really struck a chord with me. So well written, and I'm sorry you had to go through that, but I'm glad you can look past it especially with the great friendships you have now.

    You are right: A friend online is still a friend and no different from a friend you would initially meet in real life. I have stopped saying "my online friend" in most cases because there is nothing different between a friend online and a friend offline, aside from the fact I might not have formally met them.

    After overcoming the initial boundaries of "oh my, won't it be awkward when we talk *in person*?????" and freaking out, as I've gotten older I have matured and tried not to worry about that at all. The sucky thing is when your greatest online buddies live overseas and it'll be a long wait before you can arrange to meet. I have met so many amazing people through blogging and they unfortunately have to be in distant corners of the world.

    However, I have met a couple of wonderful people from in and around Australia and it's just so heartwarming. It put a smile on my face to read your stories. I think I'm going to cry because I'm a bit jealous I haven't met some of my dear friends!

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