Blending online and offline life has become, of late, generally acceptable. Two years ago, when I made this YouTube video, it wasn't as true, but with the advent of "tweetups" and "gatherings" the tides have shifted and hearing "oh, we met on twitter" isn't so odd. At least in my circle ... er, bubble.
Amazing in so many ways, social networks have created opportunities for me to connect with moms all over the world, introduced me to the smartest people I've ever met, gotten me interviews, jobs, dates. Doors have opened; worlds (literally and figuratively) discovered.
I tend to be transparent to a fault when presented with a social media platform, so when I meet people IRL (in real life) the first thing I hear is "I feel like I know you." And in many ways they do. If they watch my videos on YouTube they've seen my kids grow up, if they read my blog they know my struggles as a newly single mom. My twitter stream has, at certain times, been more revealing than the diary of a teenager.
You'd think this would make me uncomfortable. On the contrary. Much of the awkwardness I feel when meeting new people dissipates when someone says, "I read your tweet about xyz - how was that?" or "I saw that video of Maia - she's so funny." It opens up avenues of conversation and encourages a more immediate intimacy than with those who don't have online connections.
I've been lucky to meet many of my online friends in person. Berkeley has a nice contingency of people tweeting about local news and events, lots of moms, and foodies. Some I see often, others by happenstance (I'm always surprised by the number of people who recognize me by my twitter avatar). I've yet to have a bad experience.
That said, I've also connected with people who, without the Internet, I'd have never met. Folks with whom I share experiences but live across mountains and seas. Lucky for me, San Francisco is a destination that's fun to visit and hosts many trade conferences – IRL meetings have been generous.
The sweet potential of connection via online medium opens up the entire world for exploration. Everyone is as close as the click of a mouse. It makes our planet seem so small.... and then, inevitably, so LARGE. Spending actual physical time with some of these online friends is SO comfortable that it begs for ... well... more actual physical time. Therein lies the conundrum: While allowing us expand our social reach, the Internet also reminds us of our limits.
A teleportation device has yet to be invented and plane rides are long and expensive. Furthermore, the trappings of life - work, kids, commitments - make even the idea of frequent visits impossible. And so there is a vague bitterness that follows some of these meetings. In this advanced age of the Internet, geographical limitations still apply. Mountains and seas remain obstacles, and someone on the other side of the world who might have become a best friend, flame, or companion is, in all reality, still on the other side of the world.