This Internet thing seems to be taking a firm hold on society, and we don’t think it’s going away anytime soon. As people get more and more comfortable with the virtual world, or as people search for new ways to entertain themselves at work, fandoms are discovered and friendships made. More and more frequently, these fandoms and friendships lead to face-to-face meetings. The first few times you meet someone from the internet it can be confusing and possibly scary—you’re about to meet someone you’ve talked to 12 times a day via AIM or email or even the phone. Perhaps you think you know them better than anyone in your “real” life. But meeting them in person? That changes things; whether it’s for better or worse is up to you. Tons of questions will cross your mind: Are they going to like me? What if they think I’m an idiot in real life? What if I hate them? Should I cancel? Does this shirt go with these pants? Why the hell did I agree to do this in the first place?
Trust us, this is normal. We here at PopGurls happen to be something akin to experts at this face-to-face thing. Trust us, it gets easier. Hell, to us, it’s old hat. For those of you still new to the experience, we’d like to offer a few tips.
- Don’t set your expectations too high. Those highly amusing, witty people in email may take awhile to warm up in person. And not everyone is exactly like they are online. Don’t be disappointed if the first five minutes aren’t the most wonderful time of your life. And, trust us, it’s never what you imagine. But sometimes, it can be better. It’s all about having an open mind. And a sense of humor. You’ll need it.
- Get your stories straight. There is still a certain stigma attached to the Internet. As time goes on, this will probably go away, but for now, it’s a fact. If you ever plan to meet anyone in person, establish your back-story first. Be prepared for meeting someone you know in your daily real life. Trust us, it happens. Inevitably, you will be asked how you met your friend. If, for any reason, you are uncomfortable explaining that you met them on the Internet, be up front with your friend. Chances are they might feel the same, and it can save some serious trauma later. You can say you met at school, through friends, at work, whatever — but keep it simple. Something you’ll both remember, or you’ll look silly having to backtrack later. Or perhaps you’re comfortable admitting to the Internet, but not that you met through an *Nslash mailing list. No problem. Just don’t go into specifics, it’s that easy. Just make sure you’re on the same page, please.
- People are fragile. We live in a world that bases your worth pretty much on how you measure up in the looks department. The beauty of the Internet is that it gives you a chance to get to know someone before you see them. Please remember, the first time you meet someone, they are more than likely worried about how you will react to them in person. No one’s perfect, not even you. Don’t expect them to be. Do not ditch someone five minutes after meeting them just because their physical image doesn’t live up to your imagination. This is incredibly insensitive, rude, and we can’t stand people that do so. And you don’t want us to hate you, do you?
- Have fun. Make plans. Keep an open mind. The first time you meet someone could be awkward, or you could hit it off right away. You never can tell. If you’re meeting a large group of people, the main person you went to see may not mesh with you in person, but someone you’ve only exchanged hellos with once or twice could be your new best friend.
- Having activities planned can make breaking the ice easier. Go to a movie, meet a group of people for coffee, hit a video arcade or theme park. Take some of the pressure off of the conversation.
- Relax! They’re the same person – well, generally speaking (Okay, not all of the time. But we’re not here to give you a PSA, we assume you already know the perils of the Internet. Email us if you have any questions.), that you’ve been talking to, sharing your love of all things *NSYNC or Minesweeper or Roswell. When in doubt, bring up the topic that brought you together. It’s sure to get you going. The rest is up to you. Vaya con dios.