Have you ever had a variant of this conversation with a friend or family member?
- You: I met So-And-So for lunch today.
- FFM: Who’s that? An old classmate?
- You: No. They’re a blog friend.
- FFM: A what?
- You: A blog friend. You know, someone you met through the internet.
- FFM: Are you doing eHarmony?!?!
- You: No. Not like that. They’re someone who comments on my blog and vice versa. We follow each other on twitter, too.
- FFM: And you’d never met them before? <shifty eyes>
- You: No. They’re in town for business.
- FFM: They don’t live here?
- You: No. They live in Far Off State or City.
- FFM: And you’ve never met them? <furrowed brow>
- You: Not before today, no.
- FFM: Why would you do that?
- You: What do you mean?
- FFM: Why would you meet someone you don’t know?
- You: Well, because I DO know them. Because I like them. They’re a friend of mine.
- FFM: How can they be your friend if you’ve never met them?
- You: Because we interact all the time.
- FFM: That’s sort of weird, don’t you think? What do you really know about them? What if they weren’t like the way they presented themselves at all?
This conversation is at the heart of a movie that I watched the other night – Catfish. In this documentary, a hipster New York City photographer, Nev, is sent a picture drawn by Abby, an eight-year-old art prodigy, based on one of his photographs. The photographer, his brother and a friend decide to document the interactions and friendships between Nev, Abby, and her family which blossom on Facebook and online.
In time, Abby sends Nev more pictures derived from his photos and Nev finds himself increasingly involved with the family. He talks to Abby’s mother, Angela, and actually begins having a long-distance romantic relationship with Abby’s older sister, Megan. And things get interesting when the hipsters decide they’re going take a road trip to pay an unexpected visit to Abby’s family in Michigan.
Now, Catfish is an interesting film, though it has gotten into a little hot water for perhaps fudging the lines between documentary and entertainment, with some folks wondering if the entire film was staged for effect (which potentially puts it into a different kind of hot water). And I have to admit that while I watched it, I kept wondering if the story was true. To me, the boys seemed exceptionally fortunate to capture every critical moment and turn of the relationships. That’s a lot of GB to record and sift through on a project that might or might not ever turn into something interesting. (It didn’t turn out too badly I guess though, since Catfish’s release, the filmmakers were tabbed to become co-directors of Paranormal Activity 3).
But the film and the above conversation serve to highlight the potentially fragile nature of online relationships – what if people really aren’t like they seem?
And so if you’re reading this, you almost certainly have some sort of online presence and persona, so my questions are:
- Have you ever met-up with anyone that you first met online (and not in an e-dating sense)? If so, how many different people?
- Have the interactions been positive or negative? Are you glad you did it?
Personally, I have found many of the relationships I’ve first made online over the last five years to be some of my most favorite and important to me, and by and large everyone I’ve met has been almost exactly like I have expected them to be (except for maybe their voices, I never seem to be able to pin down voices).
I’m very curious to hear your experiences. And by all means, elaborate on your answers and feelings in the comments!