Part of my most recent blogging hiatus can be blamed on Plurk, a social microblogging site I discovered in December of 2008. Though I haven’t stayed up ’til all hours – or even all night – chatting like I did when I discovered my first online community in college in 1990, I have met many neat people from literally around the world.
Two of my Plurk friends – one from Vancouver, Canada and one from York, England – are poised to meet face-to-face next week, and they are both a bit nervous about it. This post about one of my earliest face-to-face encounters with an online friend is largely for their benefit.
Back in the old days of the internet (1989-1990), this whole online chatting-connecting-texting phenomenon was in its infancy. I came home from Europe, fell out of a three-year romantic relationship I’d had since high school, and found respite in a strange new digital world, albeit one basically restricted to the campus on which I was attending college. I fell in love with VMS Phone, a comparatively primitive messaging system through which you could actually talk by typing in real time to people who were simultaneously online on campus. Radical! It was neat to watch each letter appear as the other person typed (there was no “instant” in instant messaging in those days!).
I spent hours glued to either my own computer or to a computer in one of the campus labs, unless it was time for class, studying, or a broomball game (my favorite sport, but that’s for another post). I even joined MCUG (Miami Computer Users Group) so I could meet face to face the people I was “meeting” online.
In addition to VMS Phone, our school network had installed CoSy, a bulletin board system. With this software, anyone on campus could create a profile, basically an info page about themselves. If there was no one online with whom to chat on VMS Phone, I’d sometimes go browse the profiles on CoSy. Mostly, I just read the profiles, but every so often, I’d find someone who looked interesting and I’d email them a message.
On March 27th, 1990 (or so I’m told), I sent one such message to someone who I thought, from his profile, might have gone to school with some girls who transferred into my high school. He didn’t know them, but we got to talking about lots of other things via email. Frequently. Long-windedly.
Eventually, there was a MCUG meeting coming up and I invited him to come so we could meet face-to-face. He begged off, saying he had too much Calc II homework. I went anyway and did what people always did at MCUG meetings: plopped down at a computer, logged on, and chatted with people all over the room via computer. Pretty soon, I saw that HE was online. I promptly chastised him for saying he had too much work when he clearly had time to be online. He asked how I knew he WASN’T there.
Well, THAT got my attention! So I ripped my eyes away from the screen and looked around the room, only to find a guilty looking, grinning guy sitting DIRECTLY BEHIND me. He had been there the whole time! Apparently, the plan was to scope me out and make sure I wasn’t hideous before he admitted to being in the room. This was easy to do, since I was one of only two women in MCUG at the time.
To make a long story short(er), our 15 year wedding anniversary comes up October 22, 2009!
So I don’t worry about meeting online friends face to face. It’s always turned out ok for me.