Meeting strangers

I am no stranger to making friends online.

Back in 1995 when I got my first computer, anybody who was ANYBODY was on AOL. In fact, the door to my bedroom at my mother's house still has an AOL sticker on it that reads, "I'd rather be online." Chat rooms were all the rage, and 8th grade Erica found herself talking to people online all the time, in both AOL and MTV chat rooms. Nobody seemed to worry about sexual predators back then, and let's be honest; at that point most of them didn't know how to get online yet. I was just excited to talk to new and interesting people.

I remember the first time a boy PM'd me (PM = Personal Message). My little naive heart was all a-flutter! We agreed to meet in the same chat room again the next night at a designated time to talk again. I wrote about him in my diary and decided to email him before we talked again to tell him how much I liked him and see if he wanted to be my boyfriend. He never responded to that email, and he didn't show up the next night to the chat room to talk. I was crushed! Later I realized how freaked out he must have been when he got my email. Sorry, random AOL boy. :)

Skip ahead a few years, and I'm on my way to college. I signed up for a South Park newsletter through Comedy Central's website, and I slowly started getting to know some of the regular posters. The newsletter eventually got dropped by Comedy Central, but the members created an MSN group to keep it going and planned a South Park Convention in Colorado. I told my mom about the convention (she is also a big SP fan), and in the summer of 2003 we both flew to Colorado to meet a bunch of people I only knew through an online newsletter. It was a BLAST! Mom and I attended subsequent "mini" conventions, getting to know this group of people better and enjoying our shared love of a silly, dirty cartoon. The group eventually fizzled out, but I'm so glad I met them. In fact, two of the people I met through the South Park newsletter (and who met each other that way as well) are getting married this summer - and they've asked me to be a bridesmaid in their wedding! All because I took a chance and flew to Colorado that summer to meet some people from the internet.

Now it's even easier and more accepted to meet friends in real life that you know from online sites or groups. The same goes for couples. It used to be embarrassing to say that you met your significant other from an online dating site - now, it's commonplace. I know plenty of people that found their spouse on the internet, and are happy they made that decision.

Recently, Jared and I met two people who frequently comment on The Domestic Scientist. I found out they lived in Columbus, and started listening to their radio show, CaveRadio. When they mentioned on Twitter that they were going to play Dungeons and Dragons for the first time, I tweeted back and said that I was jealous - I played D&D back in high school and would love to play again. Without hesitation, they invited me over to play that Friday night. I brought Jared and Miranda with me, and we had an amazing time!

I guess I've just never been afraid to make connections with people online, even when it wasn't accepted to do so. Meeting strangers, contrary to what we are taught as kids, doesn't always turn out bad. Sure, there are weirdos out there, but the internet is mostly full of really awesome people - and I'm so thankful that I've been able to meet some of them!