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One day two years ago, I had this conversation with my mom over the phone.

Erika: Hey, Ma.  I’m heading to Indy next week and I’m going to meet my friend, Laura.
Ma: That’s nice.
E (pushing because I deep down I told her for the reaction): It’s my friend I met through Flickr…
-Silence-
E: Ma?
M:  Really?  You’ve never met her before?  You are going to met her in public?  How do you know she isn’t a crazy person?
E: Well, my other friend thinks you can probably read Crazy in her photos.  And her photos seem normal.
M:  Is this other friend also an online friend?
E: No.
M: Text me when you’re done.  And don’t do anything crazy.  Promise?
E: Promise.

I had the same conversation again with her but the city changed to Marietta.  And then it changed to Atlanta.  By the time I picked up my Toronto friend from the airport and put her up at my house, my mother had gotten used to my Stranger Meeting phone calls.

My mother was not the only person wary of me meeting online friends.  Mark was worried, but knew he had no authority to stop me.  My friends in Columbus probably also thought it was odd.  But I usually cut them off with: “I know.  It’s weird.  I know this.”  It isn’t normal to make friends online if you aren’t dating or into video games.  I’m supposed to make friends at work or through my kids’.  After a certain age, you stop trying to strike up conversations at the grocery.  You stop hoping you’ll make a great friend over a head of Bib lettuce.  You take a class and maybe you’ll find someone with common interest.  I wasn’t taking classes.  I was working and raising a young family.  Personally, I didn’t want to make the effort.  I have a small group of close friends and I figured I was good friend-wise.

But Flickr was different.  I met women with the same interest: photography.  We learned about each others’ lives one frame at a time.  So instead of playing it safe or being normal, I typed Laura and email and said, “I’m coming to Indy.  Wanna meet for a drink?”  And we did.  That meeting made it easier to have others.  Through different photos, Suzanne and I realized we both lived in Columbus.  Becky (IRL friend made stronger through photography) and I made plans to meet her in a local spot.  I found a work trip that would put in Atlanta and talked with Jessica while the golden light faded to blackness (a no-no for Photog friends).  And that Fall, Carmen hopped off a plane and into my car.  Recently, I pushed for another work trip but this time to Maine.  Kristin showed me her city and I hugged her in person.  Come October, I’m hoping to meet the rest of the O+U ladies in Toronto.

We took a different route towards friendship.  No book club or dinner parties.  We swam around the Internet, brought it into real life and took a chance.  When I have a personal problem, I take it to the O+U group.  They aren’t caught up in a personal drama, so their unbiased opinion is respected and appreciated.  If I have a creative problem, my computer is a bucket of solutions.  Some people complain that the Internet is forcing us to not connect with our friends and family.  Throw a rock, find that article.  Maybe some people’s friendships have suffered because of the Internet.  But some have flourished because of it.  Some were born and nurtured because of it.

Life is hard.  And I want mine filled with as many good friends as I can make.  On Thursday, Carmen brought her boys to Columbus.  Years from now, my kids won’t think it’s crazy that they spent two days with Mom’s Internet friend.  Because I have a feeling this will be the norm a decade from now.  One day, I’ll be old and saucy when the phone rings.

Coop: Ma!  Remember that guy I told you about who was helping me with that song?*
Me: Yay.  In England?
Coop:  No.  Gawd, listen would ya?  In Turkey.
Me:  Oh, yay.  Turkey.
Coop:  He’s coming over to the states and we’re going to meet in person to discuss the second verse.
Me:  Have fun and meet in public, would ya?
Coop:  Fine…  

*I picked music but I have no idea what he’d be meeting a stranger over.  He’s seven, people.

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  1. May 25, 2012

    yay for the gaggle of boys up there! theo is a boy now… not a baby!!! eeep!
    XO you girls.
    flickr friends RULE.
    off to see some of mine tomorrow in VT. that was the first ever internet meeting i ever had. and yes we were nervous, but imagining life without all of you and al of the real friends i have connected with throughonline meetups would be a lonlier placde. for reals.

  2. Becky #
    May 25, 2012

    Love that wall of boys.

  3. May 25, 2012

    The only thing cooler than making great friends online, is watching our kids hit it off too. Makes my heart swell just a bit.

    • Laura #
      May 28, 2012

      a little teary eyed when this popped up….xo

  4. May 25, 2012

    It’s funny for me to type this, but I am/have been historically, a really private person. The first sp I put up of myself on flickr a few years ago was the first time I’d posted a picture of myself anywhere online, and my husband couldn’t believe I’d done it. So, about a year ago, when I met flickr friends irl, children in tow, that was about as out of character for me as anything I’ve ever done . . . except, somehow by then, it wasn’t. It was the most natural thing in the world to hang out with Holly & Audrey, and normal too that the girls fell in so quickly with each other. I think we cut through a lot of the get-to-know-you bullshit when we find people we connect with through their real life pictures and words & by the time we meet in person, it’s just icing. Sometimes I daydream about a trip to SoCal, the Midwest, and England to hang out with kindred spirits I was lucky enough to meet through flickr. One day I’ll make those bigger trips happen – and I know it will be amazing.

  5. joelynnej #
    May 25, 2012

    It’s a wonder you didn’t get shanked! O_o

  6. kathy #
    May 25, 2012

    I met my first group of internet friends about 9 years ago…a group of us, on vacation – no idea about each other except one common bond. It was an awesome experience, and we’ve all remained in touch since then. I’ve also met a friend through a common bond, that didn’t go so well. But no one got shanked – did want to shank her at one point…but we all survived!

    I got the same lectures from family and friends…everyone is a serial killer…its funny, because now my sister is all about online friends…times do change!

  7. lisamac333 #
    May 26, 2012

    dammit…your girls are THE BOMB! I can’t wait to meet and hug you in October x

    • Laura Yurs #
      May 28, 2012

      can’t wait to meet you too!!

  8. May 27, 2012

    The first time I met a person IRL from the Internets was 14 years ago — a boy I’d been chatting with feverishly for about a year while I was in college. I flew, ALONE, to Chicago, to meet him and go to a Cubs game. It was a crazy adventure/love story that ultimately didn’t work out.
    Somehow I think the way you have done it makes more sense. Someday maybe I’ll meet a few of you awesome ladies… I feel like I live in another country down here in South Florida!

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