When I first started blogging, I really didn’t have much of a grasp of its social aspects, but as I started to make my way around to other blogs – and to be found by them as well – I discovered how much I liked that part of it. People whose blogs I commented on regularly, and those who often left comments for me, started to feel like friends – and if I happened to learn that they lived in my vicinity, I might start thinking it would be nice to meet and talk with them in person one day. I had thought that (another) Wendy, Literary Feline, might be the first blog-friend I’d meet off-line, but an e-mail snafu prevented our arranging to find each other at last spring’s Festival of Books – I’m hoping for better luck with that next year! But by then,the line between online and off-line friends may have become pretty blurred already, thanks to my becoming part of the Los Angeles Moms Blog.
Janssen, who blogs at Everyday Reading, recently reflected on that blurring:
Some people are, I think, very similar online and in person, while others are very different. I think I’m pretty different. I’m definitely quieter in real life, since it can often take me a while to warm up to strangers enough to feel comfortable telling stories and making jokes, and I certainly am too reserved to tell you how deeply I hate your partial feed or that your private blog makes me crazy because it cannot go into Google Reader.My voice is probably lower than you expect. My “at ease” face makes me look confused (I know this because one of my professors my first semester at (college) asked me daily if I was getting everything because I looked so perplexed throughout the lecture)…It’s just such a weird thing,putting yourself out there online, because people can know a lot about you, enough to draw major conclusions about what you are really like.
SoCal Mom Donna, the first member of the LA Moms Blog, enjoys having the opportunity to blur those lines:
I have mentioned in the past how envious I am of the mom bloggers who live up in Northern California, because they seem to have turned their online community into real world friendships. That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to contribute to the brand-new Los Angeles Moms Blog.And (last weekend) we took a major step in creating our OWN real world community…And I remembered why I keep on doing this: I love hanging out with smart, funny, articulate women. And when they are all women who blog,there’s never a lull in the conversation.
The LA Moms Blog is still in soft-launch, growth mode, but those of us who have joined in early really wanted to get acquainted as soon as possible.Some of the women had the chance to meet during BlogHerCon, and a few others did know each other before through one thing or another, but most of us were in-person strangers – although not literally virtual ones. We were eagerly seeking out one another’s posts on the Moms Blog and finding each other’s personal blogs, leaving comments, e-mailing each other, and following each other on Twitter. Through a Yahoo Groups message board, we planned an informal Sunday-afternoon potluck, and while not all of the current roster was able to make it, we had a great turnout. Because I’d had the chance to read up on almost everyone beforehand, and the group wasn’t going to be intimidatingly large, I felt pretty well-prepared for the face-to-face, which is the way I like it.
Aside from the preparation angle, it’s also a little easier if I don’t have to walk into these things alone.The get-together was held at the home of Jessica Gottlieb, which is in a nicely central location for a group whose members are geographically dispersed throughout Greater Los Angeles, but seem to be concentrated in West L.A. and the San Fernando Valley. On my way there, I’d be passing Donna’s freeway exit, so SoCal Mom and I carpooled. That means Donna is officially the very first blog-friend I’ve met in person, and since we’ve known each other online for nearly a year now, I’m really glad it worked out that way. Two of the Moms Bloggers, Karen of Nouvelle Blogger and Anna from Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder (she does standup comedy – she ought to know), contributed terrific posts for the Bookworms Carnival, and I was looking forward to thanking them in person. I’m in a mutual-Twitter-following relationship with Mar Vista Mom Sarah and Kim from House of Prince, and was glad to know I’d be seeing them too. I’ve created a special sub-blogroll through Google Reader for my co-contributors’ personal blogs, and have recently added Nina (Charlie and Nina), Marsha (Sweatpantsmom), Liz (Los Angelista), Elizabeth (Traded My BMW for a Minivan), and Jennifer (SmugDadCrankyMom) there. Amy doesn’t have her own blog (yet), but she does have a website.
It was an amazing experience to walk into a house full of strangers where no one truly wasa stranger. We’re hoping to have these gatherings as often as crazy schedules and spread-out geography will allow, and I look forward to that. I’m interested to see how these relationships develop from their online beginnings, and how an offline community grows from its virtual roots. Have you had that experience yourself? Tell about it in the comments!