I think we should meet In Real Life…
It’s one of the first things that we teach kids about Internet safety. If you’re chatting with someone online, you should never give out your personal information, and you should never, never agree to meet a stranger. Things aren’t what they seem – that person pretending to be a 15 year old is probably a 30+ year old stalker.
One of my former choir members was twice engaged to men she met chatting online. She married the second one, and things seem to have turned out well. Of course, there are the other cautionary tales which prompted the warnings from the previous paragraph.
So, I’m about to violate that rule – not once, but twice in the next couple of weeks. And it’s not the first time I’ve met someone from online IRL. Four times now I’ve gone on photo walks with folks I’ve met on the Flickr photo-sharing site. I’ve also met with groups of geocachers – folks I knew only as screen names until we met.
Tomorrow I head out for a long paddling trip down the Edisto with a bunch of guys I’ve never met except through Flickr. In two weeks we have the Great Waterfall Odyssy of 2008 with yet another group of Flickr photographers.
There are several huge differences between my activities and those that prompt the type of warnings generated above. First, I’m an adult (all evidence to the contrary aside.) I always make sure things are on the up-and-up and that I’m in control of some form of egress. The gatherings I’ve always attended have been organized groups, and with people that I’ve communicated for a considerable period of time, even if it was only online.
More and more people are finding people with shared interests online, and it only makes sense that they should get together at some point. While there are real dangers out there, it doesn’t have to be all horror tales and tragedy if one only follows a few reasonable precautions.