Monday, July 9, 2012

Meeting Online Writing Friends In Person.

Ah, the joke's on me.

I chose to return to blogging the morning after I spent an evening with a bunch of writers. It was a good evening. A really good one. But that means I'm blogging late at night (because I've been writing like a fiend for the past few days and didn't plan posts ahead).

I gave him an ARC of SANCTUM.
Commence anxious freakout in 3...2...
This evening, I met some writers who I had previously only known online. Two of them, Matthew MacNish and Kristen Wixted, are writers/bloggers with whom I have corresponded semi-regularly. This is a picture of me and Matt, which I only have thanks to the thoughtfulness of Kristen, because apparently I am the only writer on Earth who is not in possession of a swanky smart phone.

I find the relation between expectations and reality rather fascinating. There is plenty of research that shows how crucial expectations are in shaping our perceptions of reality. And I guess my expectations for the evening were borne out, because I expected Kristen and Matt to be awesome and they absolutely were (if you don't follow them yet, you should).

But certain moments throughout the evening reminded me how our online personas gradually take shape in the minds of others, little bits and pieces that coalesce into a solid impression. Like when Kristen stated that she was kind of surprised that I seemed so able to talk to people because I often mention how introverted and shy I am here on the blog.

I mean, I live in my skin, so that's pretty funny to me, because I make my living talking to people, and I'm usually able to function in social situations with a minimum of awkward (note that I did not say NO awkward). However, what goes on inside me--the part of me that takes place in my own head--is what I often describe on my blog and on Twitter, and that's all Kristen had to go on. My inside experience. It affected her expectations. She maybe (you'd have to ask her) expected the inside me, but she met the outside me. Both of them are real, of course, but only one of them is visible. The other ... you just have to take my word for it. We all have that kind of thing going on, right? (right?!?)

Online, we get the chance to describe ourselves to others, both to show and to tell. It's a unique opportunity, this melding of synthetic and organic. I'd say it's the opportunity to create a completely synthetic self, but I don't believe that. Personality leaves its fingerprints all over the place. But sometimes, when we meet in person, it takes a while to reconcile the show with the tell.

Has this happened to you? Have you been caught by surprise when meeting an online acquaintance/friend in person for the first time? What were your expectations and how did they compare to reality?


  1. I've only met a few writers from blogs. They seemed just like their on-line persona, but the photos on their blogs looked very different. If it weren't for name badges, I wouldn't have known who they were. Hmm? And just curious, where were you and Matt?

  2. YAY---two of my favorite on-line peeps together, *AND* an ARC(let jealousy commence)!!!! I get a snapshot of personality from someone's on-line presence and usually it melds together when we meet. Except for those who are pretty vocal on-line and super shy in person (like discovering Oz behind the curtain)! xoxo

  3. I was going to ask you how the meeting went. I'd love to meet Matt and see if he's at all like his online persona.

  4. I've met two of the writers in my online critique group in person - and it was so amazing to talk to them.

  5. Hey, I recognize that guy. I might have to drive to his place and steal that ARC. Might have to take a long lunch to do it, though. Hmm...

    The one time I met up with Matthew, I wished he'd more time to chat. He's a great guy.

  6. I soooo get this.

    People that I know in "the real" never believe me when I tell them that I am an introvert. The reason? Because I am very good at extroverting--for very, very, wee, tiny bits of time. Like a short cocktail party.

    We recently had house guests stay with us for about five days. They were calm and pleasant adults, they don't yet have any children of their own to add to my kid circus, and they required a minimum of entertainment from myself--when they left, I felt like I had run back to back marathons and slept through an entire day to recoup.

    Crawling out of my personal hole is exhausting. But it doesn't mean I can't do it, and do it well. Sometimes, I even want to come to your party. Just please don't be offended when I'm the first one to leave.

  7. It was, again, so great to meet you! I definitely relate to this although I try to be as close to myself as possible online

  8. Oh, that must have been so much fun!! I know both Matt and Kristen from our contacts online.

    It is always fun to meet people in person after meeting them online. There's always a moment of disorientation -- adapting their live physical appearances to the static avatar in your head -- but in the end, they are the same people!

    I really want to meet my two CPs in person some day, and I am holding out hope that I can attend BEA next year and meet you and some of the other bloggers I communicate with regularly.

  9. Even people I know in person, like friends I haven't seen for a long time but have corresponded on email--they are so different in real person! Online is really very 2D even when we let our personalities out.

    I don't know Kirsten well, but I'm so jealous you met Matthew!

  10. Interesting question. I do know a couple of my regular online blog correspondents in person because we first met at a writer's retreat and became friends, then blogging partners, then eventually focused on individual blogs but always keep in touch through the blogs. I have to say, I love seeing their blogs and knowing them in person as well, because it does add dimension.

  11. I'm always a little nervous when meeting online peeps for the first time (not that this has happened very often) because I feel like I'm much more articulate and outgoing written. Like my internet self feels like (to me anyway) more extroverted than I think I am. I don't know what people actually think of me though. Anyway, I'm glad you had a good time though! It's still super cool to meet online friends in the real!

  12. I'm extroverted in my head...

    lol I know what you mean - I'm shy as anything with people I don't know very well, and tend to grin like a loon to hide it, but with my close friends I'm apparently TOO talkative. But I think I'd be way too shy to meet online friends in the flesh.

  13. Okay, part of me is a leetle too tired to answer this deep question right now. Because SOMEONE kept me up chatting 'till, like 11:30! (Or something.)
    And then of course I had to go home and tell my sleepy husband about my whole evening...
    Anyway. I did expect to meet the inner Sarah, because I think you put it really well in this post, that's kind of who you are on the blog. But I could tell from e-mails you had some serious wit, so I really, honestly, wasn't sure what to expect. And the person I met was wonderful and awesome (and tall.)
    Matt, I thought, was pretty much like I'd expected, only taller. Heather was tall, too...but I digress...(it's the exhaustion).
    It was a great evening. Like I said, Sarah, any time you need a ride to Cambridge...

  14. I think I can compare it to seeing an old friend. That friend has changed, but my memory of that person hasn't, so when I see them again, it takes some adjustment.

  15. I had this experience way back when I was a storyteller and attended a national storytelling conference. We had a Listserv (told you it was a long time ago) where we all chatted online, and meeting them in person was kind of surreal.

    We knew what each other was like (their sense of humor, whether they knew what they were talking about when they gave advice, things they were passionate about) but not the details of their lives outside of storytelling. So you'd find yourself laughing hysterically over shared jokes, but having to ask them whether they had kids or a day job.

    I'll be at the SCBWI conference in LA (and I'm trying to get a meetup going, btw) and I expect it will be pretty similar to meet blogging friends and tweeps in person.

  16. Closest thing I've experienced to this is meeting people in person after having only "known" them through on-the-air amateur radio conversations. Of course, we have the advantage of hearing not just each others' words, but also our voices. Still, that doesn't mean there are no surprises. Funniest time was when I met a fella who said, (I kid you not!) "Susan! I thought you were young!"

  17. I've met four blogger/writers in person and I've only been disappointed once ( does happen). I wish I knew how they felt because I'm like you (introvert out in the wild) in those situations. I'm always worried that they'll be disappointed. :)

  18. I don't have a swanky smart phone either, or any kind of cell phone. And yet, somehow, I manage. Not that I'm not dying for one :)

  19. I haven't met any of my blog friends, although I have friends who have blogs that I personally know. One day, when I'm brave enough, I'll go to one of those big SCBWI conferences and meet everyone. :)

  20. I love meeting other writers--I like to make writing as social a pastime as I can. I definitely get the jitters before I meet someone new. Especially if I really enjoy their blog or online presence--I always want the person to live up to their own hype. :) I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Matt--he's just as kind and forthright in person as he is on his blog. And his family was awesome too. What a fun night we had!

  21. Ohmigod. My two favorite people. Together. Epicness.

  22. I knew I could count on you to go deep. Be right back for another comment after reading the others.

  23. Okay. First of all, I like Carolyn's (almost) metaphor. It is a lot like seeing an old friend who's changed.

    FWIW, I kind of knew you were just like me. In other words, we have some confidence on the internet, and we don't struggle as badly in social situations as we think we do, but we worry about it a lot, because we're introverted, and it's friggin scary.

    Thanks so much for the gift, Sarah! Can't wait for your career to continue into the stratosphere.

  24. Sadly I haven't been able to meet any of my on-line friends in person. Hopefully that will change in the near future.

    I have not visited Kristen (will do so shortly now) but I think I'd be so nervous meeting Matt I'd jumble all my words together. But I know there would be certain expectations. I've met people in person (through County trainings) that I'd only had phone conversations with, and I imagine this would be the same.

    And for the record, I don't have a smart phone either. No plans to in the next four years either. (Gotta get the last kid out of the house before I can have expensive toys.)


  25. Look at you guys!!! What a great picture, and I'm SO jealous of Matt getting a book AND a map!!! AAAHHHH!!!! :D j/k

    I think meeting online friends in person is always a scary prospect because of just this thing you've described here. We have this idea in our heads, and rarely is it accurate. At least not all the way. The good news is, it usually makes no difference~ :o) <3

  26. Haven't met anyone from the blogs, but Matt is so upfront and casual online, I think it'd be like meeting Chewbacca or Hagrid - this big guy you're totally pleased to see.

    Rebecca Taylor - I sooo get what you wrote.

    And totally excellent book cover for SANCTUM!