Friends We Make Online

Despite having tons of work to do, there are moments when I’m so moved by an observation that I can’t focus on anything else until I write about it. Writing is my crutch and outlet, especially because I work from a home office and spend the work day utterly alone, aside from the pets, until the family spills back into the house again.

I have more friends than I can count. A large majority of them are people I may never get to meet because they come from all parts of the world. Some of these friends go back to the early days of the Internet, back when I started out with AOL and a dial up modem that screeched that terrible sound several times a day whenever I wanted to be online. These friends have been part of my life in many ways. One, from Norway, was one of my first online crushes when I was newly divorced. He’s still around and though we’ve never met, I always smile when I think of him.

I make friends online in interesting ways. Here are some thoughts on how the strongest friendships have formed. Maybe you do the same things in your life.

I’ll Stick By You No Matter What Friends

I’m not sure if I should mention names, so I’m hoping the people I’m thinking of recognize themselves here. Several people met me when I started the Cre8pc Website Promotion Club, first in E-groups and later in Yahoo!. That places them back to 1998. They’ve been by my side ever since. I’ve met one of them because he lives not far from me, which we didn’t realize until much later in our conversations. These friends were instrumental in the start and continued growth and existence of Cre8asiteforums.

I often wonder why they stay. It’s not about me. That much I know. Every one of these people has invested something of themselves into what we’ve created together, but the impulse to stick with it all may have been simply friendship.

Uninvited Advice Friends

During the first days of the newborn forums, I heard from several people in the SEO industry who were watching the new forums hatch. These people had advice and warnings for me. At the time, my emotional response was to feel what I did was none of their business, but as time went on, they turned out to be 100% correct. I consider these people to be some of my strongest allies today.

Clients Who Become Friends

I just emailed a woman whom I’ve known for several years. She came to me by way of a small business club I used to help moderate. She needed usability and SEO help with her website. She was pleasant to work for and that may have been the end, if not for the fact that she didn’t forget me.

When she arrived a few years later to Cre8asiteforums, she was retiring her website and business but she wanted advice and support during that time from the forums community. She and I pretty much picked up where we had left off and today she is one of my closest confidants. She’s a fantastic listener and though we’ve never met, I consider her one of my closest friends. She’s not in any of the industries I’m involved in but we share so many common interests, learned over time in our emails, that it’s impossible to not cherish this bond.

She is not my only client turned buddy. Of my online generated friendships, this is the leading pathway to creating a genuine friendship with me. It nearly always comes about when I work for someone or a company. Sometimes they become business partners. Meeting these people solidifies the bond that’s already begun.

Forum Guests and Blog Comments

Another friendship groove begins when someone is a guest either here in this blog or is a regular contributor at Cre8asiteforums. How I wish I could blast the names of so many of you who have won me over just by being yourselves and giving so much either to me or to the places and things you’re passionate about. Passion is infectious and thrilling.

Some of the moderators tell new members that need help with forum rules to imagine they are in “Kim’s house” as a guest. While sweet as heck, in my mind, it’s a gigantic house with many hosts.

In reality, my own house is designed to be the kind of place where people can come and hang out. Most of those people are teenagers and tweenies, due to my kids. There’s rarely a weekend that comes along when I know I need to prepare to feed more people than the ones who live here. My kitchen table is one of my favorite places to be, because I love the laughter and banter of the kids or my neighbors that come by.

It’s the same with the Internet. I’ve made long term genuine friendships over my virtual kitchen tables. Sometimes I sense new potential friendships starting to form. It’s exciting because my friends always have things to teach me.

There Can Be Bad Moments

I’m well aware there are people I’ve met online who strongly dislike me. I don’t hate anybody, not even them, but I respect their right to be angry with me or simply find me or something I’m involved with a total waste of their time. Sometimes there have been people who started out with negative judgments of me for one reason or another, and I may have formed the same towards them. In some of these cases, I kept the door open anyway.

This is because communication on the ‘Net is limited to how well we can write. Words on a screen can be interpreted differently. There are cultural and language differences. What is fine for one person is not fine for another. It can be so hard to learn how to talk to each other without pushing buttons, especially on sensitive topics. There’s an element of tolerance needed for the long haul or just the ability to stay out of each others’ way to keep the peace.

I respect those whom I’ve hurt or upset, even if we can’t find any way to carry on together.

When We Meet

The hardest part of making friendships online can be when you actually meet in person. I naturally need a few things. Trust and honesty are the most important. As soon as I know those two things aren’t present, I clam up. Sadly, sometimes I learn they weren’t there, too late.

An incident happened not long ago where I was with a group of industry peers and I had an opinion on a topic, which I expressed. That opinion somehow got back to someone as me “trashing” them. Since the person is someone who is my friend and for whom I admire, this leaked bit of second hand gossip could have done some serious damage. It did cause hurt feelings and I’m still angry about it because I now have reason to not trust my right to express myself and have it not be taken out of context.

I don’t network that often and am not a regular on the conference circuit. They make me nervous, quite frankly, because of situations like the recent one. Whenever I express disappointment on something or with someone, it seems to be taken literally and viewed as “She hates me now”. When THAT happens, I know that the people involved haven’t gotten to the level of friendship with me that would assure them that the thought never entered my mind.

I’m a businesswoman. Sometimes that has to be my filter and where I need to draw the line.

My favorite friendships are those where business and personal matters are like Jello and they all wiggle together in the promise of our potential new bond until becoming firm and strong.

Sometimes it takes years to get to that point and sometimes you find someone who just gets it at “Hello”.

7 thoughts on “Friends We Make Online

  1. Speaking of friends online, last night when I was making my list of people to meet before I leave here, I was sad when I remembered that you wouldn’t be here (or did you come even though you didn’t really want to?) :(

  2. If you’re referring to SMX Seattle, I’m not there. Not much use for a usability and search person at that one and unlike some other folks, I’m not paid to cover conferences :)

    I’m reading everyone’s stuff from SMX though, so don’t forget to wave!

  3. I still think men have the “bigger mouths”!

    It also makes me want to state to everyone who comes to the “meet ups” that they need to not be spreading rumors and gossip. Apparently who did this (and I do have the idea of who it was) really doesn’t know either one of us well at all.

    Concern for a friend, is not trash talking. Unfortunately people who want to start drama put it out that way. And of course it got pointed to us, when there were 3x’s as many guys there doing the talking about stuff. It does get disappointing! :(

    I think though, to our credit, we were able to explain what truly went on. I always say, you have an issue, go straight to the source! :)

  4. Very true Kim. One of my closest friends and best allies lives in Dallas and one I’ve never met personally. We’re in similar situations in business and life and it makes for great camaraderie. I greatly value the business advice and stories we share, but value the friendship that has formed even more.

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