Yesterday I read some rather horrible things written about me on the net, from someone I considered a friend. They were obviously angry with me (and some of that justified) and felt the need to vent on their blog.
Which is my little intro for something I’ve been thinking about for some time, and that is this new internet social network we have come to see as integral to our lives. And for most of us it is, I mean where else are writers, publishers, reviews, etc. all going to build up networks, find out about new markets, hear about new books, make new like-minded friends if not for the www?
But at times it comes with a price, as I’m sure we’ve all found out and surely nothing beats actually seeing these people and talking face to face, does it. I mean, does it?
Well funnily enough I have spoken to several people online who consider this a forum to be comfortable in, to be themselves, or at least who they would be if they weren’t socially uncomfortable and tended to freeze in pubic gatherings.
I am very much for meeting the people I work with, those that write for me, and those that I interact with on the net, to get a better sense of who they are, and to, quite simply, get to know them better.
Yet I know not all agree with me here and I accept that, for we are all different, all have our own comfort zones, and just as I feel much more comfortable chatting to people over a beer or a coffee, or even, failing that, Skype being the next best thing, I know some people would rather IM, tweet or blog.
My other reason for preferring the face-to-face contact is that I feel much more comfortable in future contact with the person, feeling that I have got a sense of who they are from our meeting and where our relationship/friendship lies. No matter how well I get on with somebody online, and there are a few reading this who I care deeply for, I always have that sense of dread that when I meet them, that our personalities are not going to match at all. I say this because it’s already happened and I say this because I am aware that not everybody is in person how they are online.
Even myself, I was shocked to find, when travelling to Australia, was told by a writer that they had even though they read my Live Journal, thought I was a bit of a dick (they may not have used those words but I do like to embellish!) yet meeting me in person thought I was quite nice really and even put the family up for one night on our five week journey through the country.
And very recently, on my last visit to England, one of the friends I met for the first time had been a little apprehensive, as even though he thought I was a nice guy, felt I was maybe a little ‘prickly’. He decided upon finally meeting me that I wasn’t prickly at all.
Here is where it’s tricky though, as I can definitely see myself as prickly and am a very reactive person, which not everyone takes to (for different reasons). However, I feel that I am this way when provoked, rather than when having a sit down chat with friends. Which is why I was similarly surprised when a friend round at ours the other week said I was a very calm person. Did she mean when I sit with friends and have a coffee and a chat (who isn’t then?).
Over the years online, first with IMs, Live Journal and Blogger, and later with Facebook, Twitter and Skype, I’ve met a lot of people and have tried to meet as many of those in person as I can, at cons, when visiting England, Australia (the US when I do next) and generally the people I meet match up to their online personas.
Meeting people like Amanda Pillar, Carole Johnstone, Lorna Johnstone, Mike Stone, Gary McMahon, Kaaron Warren, Robert Hood, Cat Sparks, Deborah Biancotti, Andrew McKiernan, Ross Temple, Nicole Murphy, Donna Hanson, Paul Finch, Joseph D’Lacey, Ian Whates, Chaz Brenchley, Peter Ball, Sharon Kae Reamer, Allyson Bird and many others has been a joy, and has made me feel like I actually know them much more than if we had just shared the odd e-mail back and forth.
I am aware that I have some pretty damn good online friends too, who I have yet to meet but the hope is that I can change that soon and lay those fears to rest.
I’m not sure I had a point here but was just curious about how the rest of you see this world of online communication – is it the bright new future, or is it all a bit scary?