“You’re getting MARRIED?”
I felt like I knew him so well, my online friend from halfway around the world. And yet I’d missed out on that most basic and important of data points… because we’d never actually talked about anything besides books and boats.
During the past month, I’ve had the great fortune to meet face to face with several friends and work acquaintances I originally got to know online. Their physical appearances sometimes surprised me (one smaller, and another much taller than I expected). But the personalities that shone through were amazingly familiar—like seeing a cardboard cutout suddenly stand up and walk around. These are your friends and work mates, in 3D.
One of the miracles of our modern world is the ability to meet and work with people from halfway around the globe. Shared passions and joint projects are no longer restricted by geography; we can work as closely with someone online as we would with someone living in our house. (Closer, maybe, in many cases.)
Friendships that originate through casual interactions on Facebook or Twitter often spread out to include a range of communications: email, chat, texts—even, in some drastic cases, snail mail. Choosing just the right 140 characters presents a very different picture of a new friend than what s/he might have hanging on the wall behind during in a video chat. Getting to know someone across a range of platforms is more 3D; more like meeting in person.
But no matter how well we get to know our online friends, shaking hands for the first time is still a bit spooky. Like meeting a long-lost cousin who has the same squint as your brother: eerily familiar, but somehow not quite right. The details are just slightly skewed, blurred, a copy of a copy—except that this is actually, finally, the three dimensional original.
So even with all our modern forms of communication, there is still no substitute for meeting face to face. Sitting across the same table, there’s time to move beyond knowledge share and really get to know each other. We can even chat about things that only seem important when breathing the same air—local taxes, the weather.
As for the wedding… I’ll be there in spirit. Creating carefully thought out messages of best wishes on a variety of platforms, wrapping them in virtual lace, and winging them across the pond.