Rummaging through a desk drawer the other day, I came across an old notecard with someone's AOL email address on it. Also included was their Instant Messenger name. I had to smile. I don't think I've been on AOL Instant Messenger since 2004, and that was when I was using it to answer questions posed by my sophomores regarding their research papers. I was Very Progressive, according to my assistant principal then, and Very Cool, according to my sophomores. In all actuality, I was Very Lazy. It beat staying after school and coming in early before school, and I could tackle several people at the same time, all from the comfort of my rolly chair in my own home.
AOL was way more jazzy than the platform I used in the earlier days of my online life. Do any of you remember Prodigy? I used to get online via dial-up and spend hours on Prodigy in an online community devoted to the film The Last of the Mohicans and its star, Daniel Day-Lewis. There, I found a wealth of knowledge about all of the film's stars, locations, and all kinds of stuff. I got to be a Regular there, and along with a group of thirty or so people, we posted often. No bit of information or detail was too arcane, especially if it was about DD-L or if it was a mistake in the film. We dissected and discussed, swooned and snickered. Pretty soon, we split into two factions, the Westerners and the Easterners. Talk became more lively and more about each other than the film. Some of the posters knew each other, and some lived close enough that they arranged meet-ups. There was even talk of an all-out convention for each faction. Which leads me to today's question:
Have you ever made a friend online first and only afterward met her in person? How did you finally meet?
The short answer is, heavens yes, all the time; I just go where they are and say hello. The longer answer begins with meeting some of the fans I met on Prodigy. Because I had a Real Job which cut horribly into my Free Time, I couldn't attend the Eastern convention. Later, however, another one was planned in New York. We would tour actual sites of the French and Indian War, meet up with two extras from the film who were also Prodigy posters, and visit a fort. I was the last one to fly in, and I was met at the airport by several of the women who I had gotten to know by name online, but who I had never seen. It didn't matter. Once we introduced ourselves, we merely picked up where we had left off online; physically meeting was nothing more than a formality. That was about twenty years ago, and it was the day I met Ann.
After that, we had several other mini-conventions in different locales. One memorable one was in Michigan, at a friend's lake house on Silver Lake. At that one, Ann paid for a copy of the film to be shown at a theater in a nearby town. We saw it twice, with a break for lunch.
Since then, I've met bloggers, too. I drove to Virginia to spend time with Shirley, of glutenfreeeasily, and Veronica of the hibernating CompostStudios. And just last month, during my stay with Mikey in San Francisco, I was able to spend the day with Julie of Thinking About. Again, physically meeting was merely a formality. We've been friends for years! Honestly, what does it matter what any of us looks like? Unless one of us is looking for someone to model our latest fashions, who cares?
My mother--and probably a few others in my family--worry each time I do this, go and meet "a stranger", as they call it. What if? is the first phrase out of her mouth. She forgets that I've already gotten to know this person. We've talked; I've read her life in her own words. I know her.
Friends have been made with less.