Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"Being online"

This is my tenth year of being "online". I've learned alot of different things since being here, not the least of which is that "being online" means a lot of different things to people. I'm not sure, even now, that I have the ability to explain what "being online" means, even to me.

For me, "being online" has offered me myriad opportunities that are probably not possible offline. Opportunities like...participating in telephone interviews with the likes of Tom Clancy, Nora Roberts, Paul Simon, the cast of "Touched By An Angel", and many others. Opportunities like...managing a staff of more than 100 volunteers of ages ranging from 13 to 70+ who served as chat hosts. Opportunities like...meeting countless now real-life friends, from all over the world, including my precious Hubby. :)

Yes, my husband and I met online through a :::gasp!!::: DATING SERVICE!!!!!!!! From the first email, we were both hooked, and after a whole 3 days of emailing, IMming, and talking by phone, we met in person. And, basically, we've been together ever since. Within a month or so of that first meeting, we were engaged. Oh, and let me clarify here -- we lived in different cities, 200 miles apart, so we even long-distance dated. We will celebrate our 3rd anniversary in December, and are more convinced by the day that we are most definitely made for each other.

The friends I've made out in cyberspace do mean a great deal to me, whether I've ended up meeting them in person or not, though I have met quite a few of them in real life. This October I'm hoping to meet a friend who was one of my chat host volunteers -- I've known this woman for 10 years, consider her one of my dearest friends, but we've never met in person. We went through the loss of my spouse and the loss of her youngest child, online and sometimes on the phone. We've continued to keep in touch, though by no means daily, through remarriages on both our parts, the birth of another child for her, and moves by the both of us. Finally I will get to hug her neck. :) I can't tell you how exciting this is for me.

Another friend who started out as a volunteer in my area ended up moving to Memphis, where I then lived, to go to college, and lived with me while she did. She has since graduated and is now entering grad school, for which I could not be more proud. I have gotten to witness her growth from teenager to adult, in a way that I couldn't have otherwise, being childless myself. Her life intertwined with mine in a very special and unique way -- I don't think this would have happened with any other person. Apparently, we were just meant to be lifelong friends/family. She tells me I know more about her family than she does (which might be true!), but that's because I've been fortunate enough to be included as part of their family. She is also included as my family, so much so that she and my good sister fight with each other (playfully) like actual siblings. They worry me sometimes. lol Not really -- it cracks me up. Also, my nieces and nephews, in true southern tradition, call her "Aunt So-and-so", because they love her dearly. My mom has adopted her, as has my late husband's family. :) I always have liked having one big happy family, especially when they include my family of choice.

"Being online" has allowed me to research things, to connect with people near and far, to learn new skills, to see the world more broadly, to find better deals on things I need to buy, to view places and things I'll never see in person. And as technology advances, I look forward to the new places the Internet will take me, and you, too, since you're reading my blog.

One thing I did want to add about meeting people in person that you've come across online -- don't be stupid. Just like with any other kind of encounter, don't give out too much info, don't meet in private, don't forget to use your common sense. There are good people and bad people everywhere. Yes, I've met some crazy/stupid people, and yes, I've had bad experiences, but the good FAR outweighs the bad -- FAR FAR FAR! Let your gut and, again, good common sense be your guide when thinking of meeting in person. If you rule out really meeting folks you've connected with online, you are doing a disservice to you both.

Peace, people.


neuroticillinifan said...

Speaking of meeting online friends in person, I have done so four times.

Three times have been with people I met on the Weight Watchers message boards.
Once it was lunch, public restaurant, low risk, turned out to be a wonderful person.
Once it was dinner, public restaurant, low risk, turned out to be a wonderful person.
Once it was a cross country trip to spend a weekend with 15-20 other women. Safety in numbers. I figured even if there was a psycho or two we normal ones would outnumber and outpower them. Turned out to be a fabulous experience.

The fourth was someone I met online, met for lunch, again public restaurant. This one turned out to be a little creepy so I haven't maintained a relationship, and had given only my email address out so still low risk.

Anyway, you are right about meeting people from online. Be sensible and sane about it, but go for it!

Sorry for the length of this comment. Got a little carried away there.


Wrkinprogress said...

I began meeting people from online in 1998. My late hubby and I joined people from around the country, meeting in Gulfport, MS (close to New Orleans). The next year, when my husband died, these people not only sent a huge plant to the memorial service, they also chipped in and sent me a check for $300, instructing me to use that money to do something special for myself, like travel, or spend all day at the spa. Now, you tell me, were those decent people? :)

Capriquarian Girl said...

I have met people online and have had no bad experiences at all. And recently "being online" has allowed me to get in touch with 4 different friends from high school (who I haven't really seen SINCE high school 12 years ago) and we are planning to all get together soon. Yay for being online!

Wrkinprogress said...

Actually, Capriquarian and I have been real life friends for over 10 years, and began blogging just this year. :) Yet another way we stay in touch when we live in different cities!

RunAwayImagination said...

My son convinced me to try online dating services, and look who I found!

Genevieve said...

I became very involved with a bulletin board that was centered in southern Illinois when I first got online, and they were great people. They frequently held get-togethers, and I went to several of them and really enjoyed the group.

Unfortunately the ISP who hosted the bulletin board sold to Earthlink, and that was the beginning of the end for the group. It splintered into several smaller private boards. One of them is still in existence. It has grown very large, but I still know a few people who post there. I have never posted there much -- I don't know why. I just don't feel like it.

I still have fond memories of the original bulletin board, though, and all the fun, silliness, seriousness, happiness, sadness, and just sharing of life that took place there.

Cathy said...

Hey WIP, you almost have me talked into this online dating service. Maybe one day, who knows!

Like you I have made many friends while online that I would have never known otherwise. You are certainly among them.

thanks for this post, it made me appreciate things I was taking for granted.

Anonymous said...

This was a sweet blog entry, but NOW I WANT MORE. MORE BLOG ENTRIES I TELL YA MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!