I’ve previously alluded to but not gone into great detail the fact that I have friends on the Internet. Whilst staying with my first cousin once removed Judy, she mentioned reading an article about how the US is “behind the times” in terms of percentages of friends being on the Internet with whom they’ve never met. Then I admitted to her that I am one of those people, who actually probably 50%, if not more, of my closest friends are actually friends I’ve made with the aide of the Internet.
I think that I probably go out of my way more than most people do to meet my Internet friends “in real life,” (IRL) though. The first person I met in person from the Internet world was when I was 16, nearly 10 years ago now (so I’m very old hat at it!) when I convinced my Mum to go with me to the Melbourne Comedy Festival. I met her at a train station and then we went to the Melbourne Zoo together. We are still friends today, and she was one of my friends I caught up with whilst I was in Melbourne last year.
Over the years I have met countless Internet friends. Some I’ve stayed friends with, and others I’ve lost touch with. I met my husband on the Internet. I’ve met friends from the Internet in four different countries (Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Malaysia). Sometimes my friends have travelled to visit me, but not usually before I’ve travelled to visit them. Three guests at my wedding were friends I had made on the Internet. I’ve been doing this a long time.
But I think this current trip to the US will include the largest number of meetings of Internet friends I’ve ever had. I wanted to join my husband on his trip to the US because there was a planned “Hufflepuff” meet up with a group of people from a Harry Potter community I’m involved in (where I’m a member of the “Hufflepuff” house), in early February. A great number of my best Internet friends were planning on going, and I wanted to go too! I think all up there will be 5 people I am personally friends with there, plus a number of others I know in the community, but not very well. I recently also discovered that one of the people who will be there is living in the area I’m in now, so my cousin suggested we meet beforehand – and we’re having dinner with her tomorrow night.
Whilst I love New York dearly, our primary reason for visiting the city this year was to meet a few of my Internet friends, and we did get to meet two of them this time.
In all my years of meeting friends I’ve made on the Internet IRL, I can honestly say I’ve never had a bad experience. I am not the shy, bumbling, lack-of-conversation person I am when I meet new people for the first time at parties, or whatever. The benefit for me is tremendous – having known these people online for anywhere between a couple months (as was the case with my friend I met in Malaysia, who became friends with me when she discovered I was moving there), to many years, I already know so much about them and just feel comfortable in their presence, so we’ve got a good basis to have easy conversations.
This does not mean I appreciate the friends I’ve made IRL any less, but I do feel I know my online friends better simply because the Internet allows me to be less shy, and come out of my shell to show who I really am, as it does for a good number of my shy Internet friends!