It starts simply enough. You’re hanging out on Twitter or Facebook, responding to posts, chatting with people, and just enjoying connecting with people who may live across town or across the world. The friendship starts online, but then develops to the point where you’d dare anyone to say it isn’t real. Perhaps you can laugh with this person or even call them up in the middle of the night when things are going wrong. You may call and end up speaking to their spouse or child, and vice versa. The connection grows. In some cases you may send a text meant just for your friend that gets intercepted by her teenage son and embarrasses the heck out of him. (Oh, good times!)
Then you have an opportunity to meet. This is especially valuable when your friends and you live states away from each other. Last year, a friend from New York (we live in North Carolina) had to drive home at the last minute from her Florida vacation due to weather-related flight cancellations. She needed a place to stop overnight, and without thinking, I offered her mom, son and her beds for the night. Their visit was way too short, but I knew they were ready to get home.
When your online friends live in-state, then you have better opportunities to see each other on a more regular basis and become real-life friends. This brings me to what I’m seeing as a new trend…
Once your online friends become your real-life friends, then you want to integrate them into your real life. You want them to meet your family, and you want to meet theirs. It reminds me of how, when we’re children, we’re so proud of both our parents and our friends that we want to introduce them. We love them both, and we want our friends to meet our awesome, loving parents, and we want our parents to meet our way cool friends. We want to know that part of our friends that exists away from just us.
I have a friend with whom I’ve been spending some time this Summer, and this friend happens to have a daughter the same age as my older daughter. They’ve become great friends, and Bobby‘s daughter has even adopted my toddler as her baby sister. Likewise, my toddler hears my friend’s name and says his daughter’s name. (Got all that? It’s confusing without names.) He’s become like an uncle to my girls, especially since their blood uncle never contacts them.
The time has come for Bobby and his daughter to meet my family, and for my girls and me to meet his family. Last Thursday, I met Bobby’s mom. I was understandably nervous, but Bobby assured me his mom would love me. I’m not sure I’d quite go that far after just one meet and a few posts back and forth on Facebook, but we do get along quite well and are already making plans to get together again, probably with my girls along.
Likewise, Bobby and his daughter may soon have the opportunity to meet my family. Bobby’s not at all nervous about it, which surprises me, given he’ll be meeting a lot more of my family than I met of his. Honestly, I’ll be a little nervous about it, too. It’ll be fine, and we’re going to have a fun time. We have reached the point where we’re saying, “You’re a special part of my life, and I want you to meet some other important people, too.”
Have you had an online friendship move toward real life? What did that look like for you?
- Facebook friends can be “real” friends (markoffaith.net)
- Hero amid the bullets: The power of female friendship (todayhealth.today.msnbc.msn.com)