July 23, 2012

The Summer Series - Mae Webb Winter

I have written frequently about the power of online connections and the important role they have played in my life. And how I have had the opportunity to meet some of my internet friends in person. My guest today, Mae, is an "in real life" friend who began as an online connection. I've asked her to write about the relationships in her life that have crossed over from virtual to physical reality.

Because she gets it.

Taking it offline

I've been building relationships online for several years now. For a long time I was virtually officed, so I used the internet for anywhere between 50 and 75% of my communication. I thought that was a lot.

Then I got pregnant, and internet friendships became a huge part of my pregnancy and motherhood experience. When I had a question about whether or not something in my pregnancy was normal, I went online to a message board before I checked in a book or called my mom. Sometimes (when it was no big deal) even before I called my doctor. And now that I have a toddler I check with my friends online when I'm wondering if my daughter's seemingly freaky behavior may indicate some kind of demonic possession or if it's typical toddler fare.

And some of those relationships that started with a pretty innocuous "did your child throw every piece of food you lovingly prepared for them on the floor today, TOO!??!? AWESOME. CHEERS." have grown in to real life friendships. Where we email, talk on the phone and (gasp) meet in real life. If it's not for real? If the way you've been with each other online has not been authentic reflection of who you both are in real life? You'll figure it out. Fast.

Taking the relationship offline is incredibly rewarding, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that it's also incredibly nervewracking. I remember the first time I called my IBFFL (Internet Best Friend For Life) Mandy on the phone, I was super nervous. We had long been talking every day on IM, Twitter or FB and we read and comment on each others blogs. But for some reason the whole actually hearing a person's voice on the other end of the telephone and engaging in a conversation in real time thing was really, well, awkward.

For about 2 minutes.

After that we just talked for about an hour about how we needed to meet. Which we did. At BlogHer's 2010 conference. And then again for her 30th birthday when I flew from Florida to Seattle for 24 hours. And then again at the next BlogHer conference in San Diego. This year we'll hang out twice, at the next BlogHer con in NYC and for about 10 glorious days in Seattle when my family and I take a full on vacation and stay with her and her family in their house.

Yes. I'm taking my husband and kid across the country to visit some chick I met on a pregnancy message board. Because here's the thing: we may have met on the internet and spend most of our conversations there, but our relationship is not about the internet. It's not limited. It's not bound by the constructs of tubes and air that the internet is made of. It's about people, connecting to each other, in real ways. Giving and taking, learning and sharing, just like a "real life" friendship.

So give it a shot.

Because you should be so lucky. Truly.

Hear, hear, Mae! I could not agree more! Thank you so much for participating in my Summer Series, and more importantly, for being my friend.

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