Five months ago, if you’d suggested that I could meet an entire community of amazing people online, I would have rolled my eyes. “You can’t really get to know people online, can you? I mean, it’s not real.” That would have been my honest response. Today, I know better. Blogging has provided me with the opportunity to “meet” people in Pakistan, Brussels, Mumbai, Glasgow, Montana, Toronto, and The Maldives without ever leaving my comfy couch. I’ve learned about your triumphs and heartaches, quirks and varying senses of humor through dose after dose of virtual interaction.
Of course, I’ve always wondered if these blogging crushes could translate into a real life kinship. Maybe it’s like online dating: you only show people your good side, use your best jokes, gloss over your strange tics. How many times have you heard about that seemingly sweet celebrity who’s a jerk in real life? Mightn’t blogging be the same? Would a flesh and blood meeting just result in blog-crush heartache?
Last week, I had an opportunity to find out. Cécile, the witty French blogger from Trying to Be Conscious, was visiting Vancouver with her fiancé, all the way from Zürich. She asked me a question, I sent her a list of my favorite Vancouver spots, and we arranged a coffee date for the following afternoon. And just like that, a (very) long distance online interaction became a face-to-face one. Our quick meeting ran over two hours, which turned into a series of emails, which turned into a double date on Friday night at one of my favorite Vancouver restaurants, which turned into drinks…
Et voilà! Our mutual blog love was confirmed. Cécile is just as charming and honest and beautiful as she appears on her blog. And now, blogging has gifted me a new, very interesting friend, all the way from Switzerland.
On my first trip abroad, I was absolutely dumbstruck by the variety of amazing people I encountered: Aussies, Germans, South Africans, Italians, Kiwis, Brits. Many of these traveling companions became quick friends. Suddenly, I was keenly aware of the fact that the world was very big and very full of wonderful, unique individuals who didn’t sound a thing like me, whose experiences were vastly different and yet somehow akin to my own. That realization changed everything.
Now that travel and foreign men (hello, husband!) are my constant companions, I am experiencing another version of this awakening. In the beginning, I was scared of who might be lurking behind those keyboards reading my blog. Would you be nice? Overly critical? Would we have anything in common beyond our mutual love of ceramic pigs? It’s easy to forget that every comment, every Gravatar box is a real live human being, each with her own story. But if I needed a reminder of the remarkable gift the internet has given us to exchange ideas with people all over the globe, Cécile has provided it for me.
I’m the kind of person who needs to log off and disconnect sometimes, who has a love-hate relationship with my iPhone and who can get a bit backlogged with emails. But I’ve also, unexpectedly, become the kind of person who can’t wait to see what my fellow bloggers are up to. Because that’s what happens when you share stories about love and marriage and anxiety and awakening and Whole Foods addiction. With each new exchange, each shared revelation, slowly, very slowly, the blurry outline of a person comes into sharper focus. The pieces of your stories begin to connect into a larger whole and you’re no longer just that guy or that girl from that blog. You’re a friend.
Have you ever met a fellow blogger in real life? If so, what was the experience like for you? If not, would you ever consider reaching out to someone online for an in-person interaction?