I’m currently traveling in the Pacific Northwest for some book readings (Portland tonight!), and last night I paid a visit to the Olympia Timberland Library. It was a great crowd with lots of questions, and I was thrilled to see the Washington capital for the first time. And even with all that goodness, the night was made the smallest bit better when I received a really lovely compliment. “I follow your blog pretty regularly,” she said, “and you’re exactly like I imagined you.”
To me, there’s no greater praise. I take it to mean that my blog is true to who I am, and that you readers and I are making a real connection. That I represent myself honestly—even when that means I’m making a fool of myself or unleashing the crazy.
But it got me thinking about expectations. Like with pen pals, back when people wrote actual stamp-and-envelope letters. You’d get to know each other better and better via mail, and then, one day, you’d work up to a face-to-face. It usually involved travel and lots of pressure.
It’s so nerve wracking to meet in real life someone who you feel you already know. Because what if you don’t, really? What if the potential BFF you’ve envisioned in your mind is nothing like the real thing? Yikes.
It reminds me of a girl I met a couple of years ago. She and her BFF were going into business together, but they’d never actually met. They’d been online BFFs for 10 years, (they connected on a Seventeen magazine message board. Awesome) but were too scared to come face-to-face. It had gone this well so far, they figured, why mess with a good thing?
A couple of years ago I read a blog post where the author talked about attending a blogging conference. “I’ve heard more than once since the weekend that people were disappointed in me and that I didn’t seem to be the ‘same person’ as on my blog,” she wrote. “This from people who never actually talked to me.” It was upsetting, she said, because her blog was her real self, it was simply that the other conference goers never chose to get to know the real her in person. (Lindsey, the author, recently told me it was one of her most popular posts.)
I imagine a similar thing might happen with online dating. You think you know a guy through his emails and his profile. Then there’s that moment of meeting where you decide: Is this the man I was expecting?
“Meeting” before you actually meet in person—whether it’s online, via pen pal, in a book, or even over the phone—can go two ways. It can set a relationship up to take off immediately, or it can stop a friendship in its tracks.
Have you ever met someone who you felt like you knew already—because you read her blog, or emailed on Facebook, or were pen pals? Was it exciting because she turned out exactly as you’d imagined? Or awkward because the real thing didn’t match the person in your head?