Jenna Hatfield’s post for BlogHer’s 10th-anniversary #Selfiebration, “Don’t tell me they’re not real,” couldn’t have popped up in my feed reader at a more perfect time. It’s been a few days now since someone described a blogger get-together during BEA week as “the Twitter avatars come to life,” and the relationships in my life that were born online have been on my mind.
As a socially-awkward sort with somewhat oddball interests and no talent for small talk—I’m fine once we know each other, but initial encounters are difficult—I might be overstating it to call the the social benefits of online life “lifesavers,” but they’ve certainly been life-enhancers for me. And I’m lucky to have someone in my daily, face-to-face life who truly gets that; my husband and I met online.
I’ve had countless online conversations as a blogger, Tweeter, and Facebooker since I started hanging out here regularly over seven years ago. People have left the conversation along the way, new ones have entered it, and we’ve talked about all sorts of things together. Some of those conversations were relatively brief, but nonetheless memorable; some of them have lasted for years. Some have been light, some have been silly, some have been revealing, some have been tough. And of course, they don’t all make the transition to stronger connection and the deeper bonds of friendship…but some of them did, and continue to do so, and I am grateful for that every day.
Many of these conversations may never take place outside the ether of the Internet, where we’re not bounded by geography. That doesn’t make them less significant than those that take place over the phone or face to face, or mean that the connections forged through them are any less genuine. You may have people in your daily, face-to-face life who can’t grasp the truth of that…and without experiencing it themselves, they may never get it. That doesn’t mean they get to take that truth away from you.
Having said all that, sometimes those conversations and connections do get the chance to happen in the same physical space, in the so-called real world–and even though we considered these friendships fully real before we met one another in the same room, they’re undeniably and permanently enriched when we’re finally able to share a meal, or attend an event together, or talk to each other in our speaking voices rather than our written ones.
I will be going to the tenth annual BlogHer Conference next month, and though I’m primarily going for the agenda, I’m more understanding now of those who primarily go for the parties than I was the last time I attended…sort of. I’ll never be someone who goes to conferences “for the parties”–that’s not this introverted bookworm’s personality. But I have become someone who goes to conferences because they’re an opportunity to spend time with my friends—to continue and expand on the conversations we have through our blogs and Facebook and Twitter feeds, and to have new experiences, together, that will add to the content and subtext of those conversations.