I told the Gotham Gal that I was going to get together with a friend from London next week. She asked me who. I told her his name. She said, “how can he be your friend if I’ve never heard of him?”
Good question. But the truth is that I have friends, hundreds of them, who I haven’t even met. They are people that I’ve met online. Not in chat rooms. Through blogging and other forms of social media.
When I get the opportunity to meet these online friends face to face I try to do it. I have rarely sized someone up incorrectly who I consider a friend online. It’s amazing how you can get to know someone without ever meeting face to face.
My kids think there is something stalkerish about this behavior. I guess that’s because we’ve taught them to be wary of strangers online. But they also see that it’s been a great source of new friendships for me. I hope that as they become adults, they will shed the caution we’ve taught them and embrace the web as a social medium too.
Two years ago, our family was in Phoenix. I blogged it (because Twitter didn’t exist back then). One of my online friends, Howard, left a comment that he had a couple extra tickets to the Suns game that night if Josh and I wanted to go with him and his wife.
I jumped at the opportunity. Josh was excited to see Steve Nash. Emily said, “Dad, Howard is stalking you.” Howard hasn’t completely lived that down yet, but our friendship has morphed from the online world, turned into a business relationship and much more.
That’s just one story. I could tell dozens like that.
I wrote a post not so long ago about the difference between social nets and social media. For me, social nets are a great way to stay connected to your friends but they don't do much for me in the way of meeting new friends. Social media, on the other hand, has been the best way for me to meet new people since college.
It's a lot like college. Back then, we'd sit around, play music, and talk about stuff, maybe play some cards. Social media allows that "talking about stuff" to happen asynchronously as we go about our busy lives in places all over the world. That's how I met my friend in London. Who I am going to meet face to face next week. It's an amazing and wonderful thing.