Internet Friendship

We're not ALL freaks.

Today's rant sponsored by a guestbook entry from Annonomus [sic]:

Uh i just read this book called, you should read it, and this is really weird but is ur all about me it said that you really wanted to meat this guy named mark that you met on the net! read this book and seriously rethink that

Okay, so let me start off with the disclaimer that I have not read this book, and probably won't since my reading list is always like ten billion miles long. But I had a gut reaction to this comment, and it had to go SOMEWHERE, seeing as how this "Annonomus" (should I call her Annie for short?) did not leave an e-mail address either, I decided to voice my response in a different way.

First of all, I was amused by this admonishment that I need to rethink meeting this Mark guy. Because . . . I have met dozens of people from the Internet. I'm not kidding! I met several of my best friends in the world online. Suffer through a list of people I met originally online, then in person, who never attempted to kill me: Jeaux, Fred, Brendon, Victor, Bunky, Laura, Jessica, Ronni, Jeremy, Michael-Thomas, David, Jeff, Chris, Brian, Will, Chad, Tricia, James, Carey, another Jeremy, Shawn, Kurt, Gabriel, Adam, Brad, Gavin, John, Kari, Ian, Steve, Dieter, Derek, Julie, Libby, Jessie, Kristin, Mike, Rob, Kevin, Avi, Kim, Stephanie, Monika, Gary, Eric, another Kim, Mark, Bonnie, Ray, another Derek, Cara, Mandy, Tia, another Chad, Richard, Pedro, Scott, Amanda, another James, Yasmin, a bunch of people from an OKCupid gathering, and a whole bunch of people I met at an gathering, one of whom I rode with in a car to another city, just the two of us, sight unseen. (On that last it helped that he was a gay man who had met over 200 others from the same website--all of whom were still alive as far as I knew--so I didn't really see any danger there.) Every single one of these people is now (or was then) known to me originally because we spoke online and agreed to meet in person. And I've failed to mention a lot of the ones I only met once and forgot about.

Some people think meeting people on the 'Net is a risky business. "They could be a freak," people warn me, as if I didn't know that, or as if I might not be the freak involved in this interaction myself. Me? I think meeting people on the 'Net is no different from meeting them in, say, a workshop, a class, a poetry reading, a club. You can get to know someone in many different ways, and there is no guarantee that ANYONE you give your trust to might not later turn out to be a freak or something. Some people say there is something to be said for being able to see people's faces and mannerisms when getting to know them . . . true, true. I'm very much on board with that, and interacting in person exposes me to information I obviously can't get through the phone or the Internet. But that doesn't mean you CAN'T get to know someone through text, or that you're therefore in more danger.

I like to think of myself as having pretty good judgment. I've taken a few risks. I've been (semi) burned for it once. Everyone else I've met as a result of my acts on the 'Net has either been irrelevant or has positively influenced me. I think that's partly because I don't use the 'Net as a way to "meet people"--I just think that just like any other communication tool, it does sometimes lead to coming into contact with others who share your interests, and that inevitably leads to friendship. The fact that we got to know each other through exchange of text messages does nothing to discredit our friendship.

A couple of pointers. First off, I do not use chats like a club scene. I don't "go home" with anyone in real life who seems like they're "looking," so I wouldn't meet up with someone online who is like that. Generally speaking, if some guy asks me in the first conversation whether we can meet, I think he's probably shallow or was online looking for chicks. In 95% of the Internet meetings I've had, I was the one who suggested the meeting.

Secondly, I usually talk to the people on the phone before meeting them in person. It's just a natural extension of a friendship that maybe you call each other, so that happens quickly. Not being able to see their faces as you're getting to know them does NOT mean that you're falling for a trick or that you're probably going to get someone who's lying to you. People who want to meet you are unlikely to lie to you about who they really are--because they know you're going to see them. The freaks you hear about are more often all about getting a nasty picture than actually meeting you in person. If they ARE serial killers, you could be targeted for many reasons besides talking to them online.

Thirdly, if I am going to meet someone who is from my town or something, I do it in a public place, and I do it in such a way that I probably don't have to get into a stranger's car. I have made an exception on a few accounts, such as the friend I had from Malta who was unlikely to be a giant freak if he'd shelled out lots of money and made in-depth plans to stay with me during his stay in America. People who are going to travel to meet you . . . well, let's just say there're plenty of people they can attack or get freaky with in their own town if that's all they really want. Unless both of you are doing some freaky shit already, it's unlikely that someone is going to travel from another city, state, or country just to get your trust, get in your house, and rob, rape, and/or murder you.

And lastly . . . there just are not that many bad eggs out there. If you know how to avoid them (like, not agreeing to meet the guy who wanted to know if you have pictures of you in your panties), then meeting someone from the 'Net is like meeting up with someone you got to know in class, or from work, or whatever. People tell me I don't KNOW the people I meet from the 'Net, but honestly, how well do they think they know people?

I did have one experience in which the guy I met insisted on trying to pressure me into a relationship even after I told him I was not into such things. It was not a pleasant thing, but even he was not entirely a sicko. He just didn't understand how a girl could be of my persuasion, and thought he'd "help me out" a little by insisting he KNEW I felt something for him. At that first sign of danger, I cut him off and refused to meet with him anymore. (When someone tells you he KNOWS you feel sexually toward him when you have told him the opposite, you have to recognize that "oh she wants me no matter what her mouth says" is a sign of a potential rapist, and RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!) I met with this guy several times before I decided I was uncomfortable with him, and luckily I was never put in a position where I had to face bad consequences. The point is, it wasn't because I met him on the Internet that he was a jerk.

The 'Net is a great way to meet people. It simply takes distance out of the equation. Unfortunately that creates a lot of annoyance for me and my friends since we are quite compelled to meet one another and hanging out on weekends is not an option in this situation. It sucks. But at least I met them, and at least I am no longer limited as to who I can meet in my whole LIFE by who I happen to live near. Yes, the 'Net opens up the Gates o' Freak, but that is only because that is a side effect of opening the gates of the WORLD. I currently have my JOB because of the Internet--I was hired through a Craigslist ad. My friend Meggie's son Benjamin owes his EXISTENCE to the Internet--I introduced her to the kid's father, Brendon, whom I met on the 'Net. And I once made a whole handful of new friends at a going-away party for my 'Net friend Kari; how is it that since I met those folks "in REAL life," somehow that's more legitimate in some people's eyes even though the people were just as unknown?

And if you still think that whatever case study bad eggs depicted in outweigh my arguments, well then . . . why don't you ask Jeaux, Fred, Brendon, Victor, Bunky, Laura, Jessica, Ronni, Jeremy, Michael-Thomas, David, Jeff, Chris, Brian, Will, Chad, Tricia, James, Carey, another Jeremy, Shawn, Kurt, Gabriel, Adam, Brad, Gavin, John, Kari, Ian, Steve, Dieter, Derek, Julie, Libby, Jessie, Kristin, Mike, Rob, Kevin, Avi, Kim, Stephanie, Monika, Gary, Eric, another Kim, Mark, Bonnie, Ray, another Derek, Cara, Mandy, Tia, another Chad, Richard, Pedro, Scott, Amanda, another James, Yasmin, the OKC crew, and the E2 Crew what they think of having met me?

The end.

Any comments left here are PUBLIC. If you are not comfortable with that, mail me directly.

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Comments from others:

Mikey: Well we are not all freaks, is right it is however good to walk with caution have no doubt but to say that the Internet is full of stalkers and that everyone is out to get you well that is just crazy, everyday life can be just as dangerous if not more so than just with people on the Internet, like in the normal world does one not look both ways when crossing the street? And yes it can be dangerous to meet new people as well as it can be dangerous to ride a bike go jogging or whatever, I guess we must be careful with those things as well.

Sarah: Hi. Nice rant and so true. I'm 17 and have met 3 of my online friends in real life and none of them tried to kill or rape me! My mum worries about me meeting up with people I've met online but I think I have good enough judgement to know if people are 'weirdos' or not.

Ronni: Here here! :) :) :)

Jason: Oh how true!! you never know who youre WHAT you're going to meet online. Lets see...It all began when I met my partner Rick online. The next thing you knew I am screwed locked into a life...We've been together for 12 years now and we're stuck owning own two houses and contemplating adopting a child. Shame on me for using AOL and damn me to Hell!!

Sikosm: haha Jason's comment made me chuckle. :-)

I've made lots of friends online. i have a few friends that aren't online, but probably most of my friends are online. i generally find it hard to be friends with anyone becos my social skills are not very good. and im better at writing what i feel than saying it.

iv never met anyone from online bcos most of them live overseas or interstate or faraway intrastate.

Ryn: Hi, Ivy. I do admire and take delight in a good rant. I was struck by your remark in the original response, in which you speculated as to the potential hazards against which "Annie" might be cautioning you: to wit, the "evil clown who will cut off your buttcheeks." Are you a fan of Voltaire's Candide in which the starving soldiers carve off and partake of the flesh of one buttock from each woman captive, rendering them less than callipygian in their lack of symmetry but saving the other buttcheek for later in case conventional food was still unavailable in the coming days? Nice allusion if you were; if not, nice turn of phrase. P.S. Would you like to be my internet friend? Ryn

Bunky: Yes, please DO ask me. :) I think the relationship between Ivy and me really shows how it's possible to know someone even thru the limitations of text. We spent untold DAYS (if you add it all up; not all in a row, silly) discussing, well, just about everything. In the nearly 2 weeks we have spend in each other's actual, physical presence, not once did the thought of hacking her into little bits enter my mind. Or taking her against her will. There was some pretty intense book reading at one point, but that's about it.

Love you, bee barf! (hee hee)

Richard K: I always find it funny when people think it is SO dangerous meeting people on the 'net, but will happily go home with some random stranger they met while pissed at a pub or club!
Personally (not frequenting those sort of venues) I would guess that meeting a molester / abuser / murderer / etc at such a place would be FAR more likely...