I often find myself stuck between IRL (In Real Life) and some random, isolated, spot on the web. I “follow” and communicate with people I have never met face to face. I see Twitter posts, blog posts, and Facebook posts. We might even have some kind of dialog going from time to time. But if you have never met me, nor I you, it seems like the “information to basis ratio” is off. I find it strange that I know people, based on their internet presence, yet have no basis for knowing if what they project is actually who they are. It boils down to strangers knowing much about you, without knowing you.
With this in mind, I keep myself protected when and where I feel the need. For example, when our first child was born, I put up an online photo gallery dedicated to the thousands of pics I took and will take over the years, but it’s password protected. If you happen to be my friend on Facebook, you know who I am married to and have even seen a picture or two of my son, but the settings are such that it’s not open to everyone.
Here’s the thing I am hung up on… if I follow someone’s internet ramblings for whatever reason (similar interests, phase of life, city, whatever) and then I meet them in person, even though I know they had some crazy experience the other day because they posted about it, I’m afraid it would result in an uncomfortable “this guy is a weirdo stalker type” moment. To be clear, I am not “a weirdo stalker type”, but if I am meeting you face to face for the first time, yet I know much about you, it’s kinda strange. Right? I will say it depends on the person however. I have met a few people that I first came to know on Twitter and found the exchange comfortable. They even had that familiarity that strangers certainly lack when first meeting.
So am I making this up? I feel confident that I could weird someone out if I met them for the first time and was able to ramble off the many facts I know about them. Is it my fault for consuming the knowledge without the basis? True community is in person. The internet can help this, but it can not make or replace real, true community.
Maybe this is a good argument for paring down ones internet presence to one that is more similar to ones real life. Or perhaps the solution is to expand ones real life to better match their life online.
So… if I meet you and know much about you, will you find it strange? Or will you remember all of the things I know are “out there” for all to see?