No, we’re not talking about new “friends” you met while online dating.
But we are talking about how—thanks to the blogosphere, social media, and a host of other places around the web—many of us are watching our list of online friendships blossom.
Back in the day (you know, like 6 or 7 years ago), the whole idea of online friendships would’ve included a warning about internet safety. We had our Facebook accounts on lockdown, Twitter was just beginning, and the idea of sharing our lives via photographs on Instagram wasn’t even on our radar. Despite the fact that the blog world was taking off, we still were fearful about using our real names or divulging too much information about ourselves.
Fast forward to 2013 where we’re all a little more internet savvy. We know how to be careful and not land our families or ourselves on an episode of Dateline NBC.
And while online friends can indeed be a blessing, it’s important that we don’t allow the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction and find ourselves choosing virtual friendships over the ones we see in our daily lives.
So how can we have the best of both worlds? How can we get to know our online friends in real life? Here are 5 ideas that have worked for us:
There’s a reason we hosted a meetup for our DFW readers last year. Sure we wanted to see you, but we also wanted to provide an outlet for other singles across the Metroplex to meet each other and become friends. #SRRealLife (SingleRoots in Real Life) has been such a fun experiment, too, and I’m still working my way through the list of responses from people who want to meet over coffee and get to know each other better.
Are you into photography? Or blogging? Or scrapbooking? If you keep up with what’s going on in any niche on the web, you’ve probably seen people talking about meeting up. Sometimes it can be difficult to force yourself to actually go, though.
We’ve attended blogger meetups in several states that have been a great way to meet other people who do the same thing we do. We were nervous at our first one, but after we got there and met people, it was so much easier to do it again the next time. Soon we were finding that we were seeing some of the same people at other meetups, and friendships began to form in real life.
We have friends who are really into Instagram and photography, and they attend local Instameets each month. It’s been a great way for them to hang out with online friends they’ve been following as well as build a real-life friendship over a common interest.
Anytime an online community offers a chance to meet up with others in that same community, you should take it. You never know what friendship doors could be opening through it.
So you tweet back and forth with a few people you’ve gotten to know through a particular website, and you happen to see that one of them is going to the same conference you are. You don’t really know if you should say anything or not because you don’t want to appear stalker-ish. Just rip the Band-Aid off and ask them if they want to meet for coffee during the conference.
One of our writers, Carrie Beth, and I were both at Passion in January. We were only able to schedule 15 minutes of hangout time in the breezeway before a session, but we were both grateful to be able to communicate in person and give each other a big hug. Since she lives in Georgia, we might not get the chance to be in the same room very often, so we took what we could get. It was long enough to realize we would easily be close friends if we lived near each other, and knowing is half the battle.
3. Traveling Through
Are you going on a road trip or vacation and will be traveling through the town of one of your online friends? Ask them to dinner or to tag along when you’re seeing the sites. Who better to be your tour guide than a local?
Another one of our writers, Sundi Jo, has a dear friend who lives in a nearby town, so she visits my state from time to time. We’ve tried to get together on several occasions, and it hasn’t worked out yet, but we’re going to keep trying. Don’t let scheduling conflicts make you give up. Sometimes life gets in the way, but that doesn’t mean the other person doesn’t want to get to know you.
4. Google+ Hangout, Skype, or FaceTime
I have a group of girlfriends who are spread out across the United States who get together over a Google+ hangout every few months to visit. Why Google+ over Skype or FaceTime? Because Google allows you to video call up to 10 people. It’s a great way for groups to get together online and see each other while they talk.
Also, did you know you can Skype through Facebook? You don’t even have to have a Skype account; Facebook just uses it to video call your friends. And now that newer iPhone models don’t require wi-fi to FaceTime, there really is no reason for you to keep communication with your online friends limited to the written word.
5. Make a Phone Call
If all else fails, pick up the phone to call your online friends. We know, we know…some of us rarely use it for the purposes of actually calling someone. Hearing a person’s voice eliminates many of our communication problems. If you’re going to count them as a friend—as someone who knows you and is in your corner rooting for you—it’s good to cultivate that relationship as much as possible. Yes, even by placing a call.
What other tips do you have for improving your relationships with online friends?
Photo credit: McKay Savage