Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Meeting People from the Internet

The topic of meeting people from the internet recently came up in a conversation. There's still some stigma on this - some of it rightly so. Of course a person could be totally misrepresenting themselves on a chat board or forum. Common sense, which I don't need to explain the details of here, should always prevail.

The nature of bloggers, though, is to usually be what we say we are. There are so many people on the internet now, too, that to be "from the internet" means very little and covers a huge segment of the population. It's not really very different from meeting people anywhere else. If anything, you know a little more about them before you even meet. It can be hard to meet new people as an adult. You spend the first part of adulthood thinking that the friends you already have are enough, and that anyone who is looking for friends must have something wrong with them to not have any already (sort of the "any club that would want me is not worth joining" idea). Then life changes, you move around, it gets harder to see your older friends. All of this is multiplied many times for someone who leaves their own country and finds a culture where you don't meet friends at work and struggle with the language. The internet is actually not a really bad place overall to meet people.

I was pretty reluctant about it at first and certainly have NEVER set out on the internet with the intention of meeting anyone. I have a "from the internet" story that would make your hair curl, but it's not my own story so I won't share it publicly. I have a personal one too; it's not as bad, but it could certainly put people off the concept. The first year I was here I skipped expat blogger meet-ups. The second year we decided to go as an excuse to hit Dresden, which we wanted to see anyway. And hey! Guess what? They were normal. (Okay, not boring normal, but not scary or creepy.) And easy to talk to, and funny. And if they weren't, the worst that could happen is that we broke off from the group and had a nice time in Dresden on our own. Same for any meet-up. Meet for coffee. If it sucks, it only lasted an hour and you never have to meet again.

Now there's been no turning back. Last year's meet-up in Bremen really solidified it for me: people from the internet, like people at large, are pretty damn cool, and I've almost completely forgotten that it can be a bad experience too. Bremen was a great time and we've met up with some of the same people again since then. Meeting up with a local blogger recently turned out to be fun, too. Now I'm starting to feel more awkward about not meeting people than meeting them!

All that to say: if you're an expat blogger in Germany, how about joining our meetup this year? The second round of voting on a location has begun, and it's come down to Munich, Berlin, and - gasp! - Heidelberg. Click the link - all you need to register and have a say is to be a blogger here. Who knows, you might meet a few people you really get along with, and if nothing else, you'll be able to commiserate with them on the ups and downs of life in Germany.


  1. Most of the people I have met via the internet have been just the right amount of weird (I guess I sorta lied when I said it's not that bad). It's actually quite redeeming. And I appear to have started a trend in my extended family of eventually marrying someone I first "met" online.

    I completely agree with your point about likely knowing MORE about them than otherwise. My (parents') phone bills from 1994-1998 can attest to that. I usually feel awkward around new people at work or in social situations. I much prefer to read up in advance and then it's much easier to get the smalltalk in person going. Plus, after a meetup, I get the bonus of reading others' blogs with their voices in my head. I can't think of a non-creepy "voices in my head" way to express that last part, but I expect you know what I mean.

  2. I met my husband on the internet, lol. Actually a lot of my real life friends I met on the internet first, I find it easier to meet people that way because I'm quite shy.

  3. I completely agree, Bremen was awesome. For me the "skipped" meetup was Dresden. Afterward everyone was writing about it and I was kicking myself for not going.

    As for Cliff's "voices in my head" comment, it is easy to understand what he means. (OK, so it seems a bit creepy, but it makes perfect sense)

    And oh yeah... I eventually married someone I first "met" online.

  4. I lived in Heidelberg from 1988-2003, loved it left it....havent been back since, and I am in graf now, so theres no good excuse. I am affaid if I do it wont be the same...it wont.

  5. I have met the freaky and the flakey, but my best friend met her husband online and they have been happily married for years. I also find that expat-hood brings us into contact with individuals that "shouldn't" be our friends in the same way that parenthood does, and blogging as well: sometimes you make nice to get along. So it's not the Internet that makes for freakiness, it's just another contact point outside specific groups where one pre-selects along other lines. One of my social groups- sf fandom- has gone from physical through printed compilations to virtual fanzines. Online is as natural as breathing now. As we lose local gathering points, it's great to have a "virtual village".

  6. yay internet friends! i loves them. but nobody's allowed to know just how long i've been making them!

  7. p/s/ i kinda want to go to one of your expat meetups now ;)

  8. Most of the people I've met "on the internet", well, actually all of them have been just fine, but I stick to the small world of my common interests and predicaments :)

    Wow - Heidelberg - that would be so great. We could help organise- as we're only about 45 minutes away. I guess I could deal with any of those. (yey!)

  9. I'd be interested in this expat blogger meetup that I keep hearing about, but I'm afraid we don't fall into the "expat" category. Would we still be welcome?

  10. Cliff: I know what you mean, yes. :)

    Satakieli: I now know lots of people who met their significant other online! That's great.

    Snooker: I'm glad our blogging made you want to come to the Bremen one!

    Webberpa: This is Germany, pretty change resistant, so it shouldn't be so different! :) Of course, YOU may have changed since then, then it would still not be the same.

    G: What's SF?

    Sara: ooh secrets! :D I hear plane tix are cheap now so come on over for the meetup!

    Ann: You're on the expat board now right? :)

    Lisa: Great! You seem confident about the location! :D

    Sarah: Does being on base not count as living outside your country of birth? :) I guess it might not in a technical way, but you still have to deal with some of the same issues as the rest of us, like missing the US. Anyway, of course you are invited!!

  11. I agree with you.

    I've been meeting people on the internet for about 12 years now (only for social reasons) and haven't had a bad experience.

    I also agree that meeting bloggers is different than meeting others because you basically know them before you meet them. I have been to all four Meet-Ups and really hope the dates work out for me this year.


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