It seems we all have a lot of friends – a disproportionate number, actually – that we know online. I'm talking about the type that we'll likely never meet and, frankly, don't care if we ever meet.
There's something at once freeing and disturbing about this not-so-new kind of "friendship." On the one hand, it's nice to be able to easily connect with a wide variety of people spanning an equally as wide range of interests. On the other hand, it's strange when you consider that things haven't been that way for long. Meaning that, er, all the people we used to know, we used to know in a face-to-face way.
Enough of that intro. Here's what happened.
We were in a bakery here in Seattle and spotted a guy a few tables over that we've had a couple sporadic and well-spaced interactions with – mostly about our mutual love of hiking.
These's interactions are so rare that he wouldn't know us, and we wouldn't know him except that he's also one of those people who likes to post pretty-much-nude pictures of himself. (Stop clutching your pearls; you know this weirdness is pretty common on social media now.) This is probably the reason why he also likes to keep himself mostly anonymous.
So, in order to challenge ourselves to bridge the online / in-real-life gap, we challenged ourselves to say something. Something like: "You're the hiker from the Internet." No, not: "You're the naked guy from the Internet."
We couldn't bring ourselves to do it.
We left the bakery without saying a peep. We just thought that – even despite our appropriate lead in – in might just have been too embarrassing for him. We find no pleasure in making people squirm.
But... We do find pleasure in maximizing relationships, online or otherwise. Next time, I think we'll be more brave.
I don't tweet, I don't go on Facebook. I think there's too much information about all of us out there. I'm liking the idea of privacy more and more. –George Clooney