Is That Really You?

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?

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Is That Really You?

  1. Janelle

    This hits home with me! My online BFF lives in PA, I live in WA (eastern WA so Olympia is a five hour commute for me or I would have loved to have seen you!). We met online in a forum for police wives over four years ago. We’ve stayed in contact this whole time and it just so happens she is attending a convention in my town this summer. It will be the first time we meet face to face! We’re both so excited and both a little nervous I’m sure. The anticipation is building and to meet face to face has been so long in the making. I will have to forward this blog post to her, she will get a kick out of it for sure!

  2. You represent yourself pretty well on your blog, so I imagine you get that compliment a lot.

    I do have one online friend that I’ve known for about 13 years now, and we’ve never met. We found each other on a message board while we were both in college – she in the UK and me in Ohio. She’s since moved to Wisconsin (with her husband that she also found on a message board!), so we’re only a few hours away from each other, but I think it’s the same thing as the girl you talked to said – why mess things up by meeting face to face?

    In online dating, I found that the key was to meet pretty soon after you started emailing, otherwise I’d totally build up a guy based on his profile and emails, and almost always be disappointed (I can only assume the same thing was happening on the other side of the table because I’m really awesome at writing emails, but not always so great at first date chit-chat). My boyfriend and I met online and decided to meet in person after just 2 or 3 emails, and almost 5 years later we’re still together and planning to get married, so meeting quickly is apparently a successful strategy.

  3. Since I started blogging in 08, I’ve had both scenarios happen. I met some local bloggers and the one I was most excited about meeting was a shy, quiet, and reserved (not bad–just opposite of her blog personality).

    Last May, I met up with 6 bloggers from different states in Austin. We had been online friends for several months (some for years) and finally decided to meet up. We had THE BEST TIME ever! Now it’s a yearly occasion. Next meet up is in Cali in May. All of us (plus one more person we haven’t met before) have all booked our tickets and absolutely can NOT wait!

    I love stalking your blog! =)

  4. san

    I have a pen pal from Australia. We started writing in 1992 and became really, really good friends. Finally, in 2005, after I had moved to the States, she and her husband visited California and we were able to meet up.
    It was fantastic to finally meet her in person and she was just the person I had imagined (or even better if that’s possible).
    We’ve been friends for 20 years now and I am so glad we also clicked in person.

    I’ve found that with most people that you meet online, the friendship just takes off on another level when you meet. I’ve had many pen pals and Internet friends over the years that I eventually met in person and I can only recall one time when meeting the person in person was a disappointment. I also think that nowadays with Skype and other Video call providers, it makes it much easier to feel out how you connect with the other person.

  5. Megan

    If only Olympia were the tiniest bit closer to Seattle!!!

  6. Oh my!! I have the BEST online blog friend whom I want SO badly to meet in person. I KNOW I would like her, but I am always totally afraid that she would not like me. I would be terrified to meet in person for fear that she would never want to see me again!! Glad to know I’m not the only one who gets afraid of messing things up!

  7. Having met you in person, I totally concur with the person who commented that you are exactly as you appear. And I agree that’s a compliment! I think that’s why the response I got at BlogHer bothered me so much. Since that experience I’ve become much more skittish about meeting online friends in real life. It works the same way, too, that I’m nervous about my “real life” friends reading the blog. Most of them actually don’t. But one of my very closest friends, who started reading recently, made a point of telling me in the last couple of weeks that she feels like my writing is very clearly from the heart of me and that it feels absolutely consistent with who she knows me to be. I was deeply touched – and heartened – to hear that. xox

  8. I’m loving reading all the comments!

    And I read that post PLUS all her comments too. Truth is, I’m intrigued – I can’t wait to meet up with online people.

    So far I’ve had only good experiences. There are one or two I’m slightly scared to meet up with for various reasons but I’ll just fumble my way through…

    I do think you represent yourself well on your blog (!) and if you come to do a book signing in Jhb, I’ll be there with bells and whistles on🙂 And I’ll give you a big hug!

  9. YES!!! I’m one of the rare people who still write real letters. I love to write to deployeed troops. And sometimes, they write back. I am always open and honest about myself and hide nothing. So I expect the same. I’ve met some of my penpals once they return…and it was such a let down. I don’t know if they were pretending to be someone else online or if they were pretending to be someone else in person. So now, no matter what, I don’t meet my penpals. I even dated one, fyi, and he was putting on an act the ENTIRE tie we wrote and dated.

    Recently I met a fellow blogger. First time I’ve ever met someone who’s blog I read or who reads my blog. I’ve sent a Christmas card to a few bloggers (ok…1) and email many of them. But she was the first one I met. I was super nervous about meeting her. Afraid that maybe I wasn’t the same in person as I was online. But we hit it off and had so much in common.

  10. Rose

    This is off topic, but just super curious… did you change the names of your friend-dates for the book? I feel like it would be tricky keeping track of 52 code names when writing.

    Note, I think you were very polite and tactful in describing your less than stellar dates. But I was wondering when reading what some of the ladies thought of being in your book. That’s the challenge with such a personal memior.🙂

  11. I just wanted to say that I am really enjoying reading your blog, and I can’t wait to go out and get your book… it’s amazing to me how many people go through the same struggles in life, and how similar people can really be at the core. I can sympathize and relate to so many of the accounts you speak about on this blog… you found a life longer reader in me, I wish you continued success and hope you find all you are looking for… you are very inspirational!

  12. Amy

    As a teenager, I had a penpal in Germany who was from Russia. We started writing when she lived in Russia and continued writing after she moved to Germany. After I met my husband, who has a brother living in Switzerland, we went to Germany for his wedding and our first stop was my penpal’s place where we met her parents and brother and her mom (who spoke no English) prepared a lavish meal and they gave me flowers. We had a great two days together but then I never heard from her again and I always wondered what I did/said wrong or what custom I broke? I still have some of the photos she sent me and the ones I took during that trip. So sad!

    I’ve met some twitter/blog moms locally and we met pretty quickly after we all started following each other and talking. It’s fun to get together and do different things with and without the kids, even if not everyone can come at the same time. We all have baby girls born within a few months of each other, and most of us have older boys as well!

  13. I met my current girlfriend in a Native chat room. It was weird because when she first came into the room, just her nickname, Rhodie, got me. I do not know why. I knew i needed to get to know her.

    We had talked a few months online then on the phone for a few months and still online in the chat room. When it came to meeting which was a mutual friend in the chat getting married, we met for the first time.

    I was not at all disapointed. She was exactly who she was online. She said the same thing to me about me. It was awesome. We’re still together even after all this time. We talk marriage and everything. Although it seems to be taking a while, but we both had a bad first marriage and are gun shy because of that. but I would trade anything at all for the first words I remember her saying to me when I typed in the chat room. I typed “Jessica Alba is such a hottie.” She replied, “Yes she is a very beautiful girl.” It’s weird I remember the first words that were exchanged between her and I.

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