Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bloggers Meet Outside Virtual World

The other day I met in person, Bob Frank, who writes at "Eclectic World." He was previously known to me only in the blogosphere. This was the first time either of us had ever met another blogger as a result of our only contact having occurred through blogging. We both probably had various anticipatory feelings. I was in my own hometown, at a restaurant with known faces, so was quite at ease being in a familiar setting. My thoughts did marvel that I was actually engaged in meeting another blogger in person, since I had expressed reservations about ever doing so when I first began blogging.

I entered the restaurant to surprisingly find every table filled, but knew to look for Bob and his friend. We had no pre-arranged signal, but as I began gazing around the room they must have observed my searching manner and their waving hands quickly caught my attention. Fortunately, as we exchanged greetings we quickly established we each were who the other thought we were. Bob's friend soon left our company for the local library, a convenient block away, to use the computer. Before relating more about our meeting, I want to give you some background.

Early in 2005, having just received my first desktop computer a few months earlier, I became aware of "blogs," and undertook to determine what exactly they were. I read various blogs, but soon discovered "Time Goes By" (TGB) by blogger Ronni Bennett. Her exceptional writing and blog content captured my attention. I began to read her more frequently, then gradually explored TGB blog links to other bloggers, now known as Elderbloggers,

Contrary to the prevailing attitudes of fear and mistrust of the Internet I encountered from most others in my bricks and mortar community, my blogging activities led me to conclude I could have a positive experience in the blogosphere. My young adult children supported my interest and curiosity as they supplemented information I might need to best navigate safely on the Internet. I gradually determined exercising common sense and due diligence in the blogosphere could yield information, pleasurable fun and even new "virtual" friends. Ultimately, I embraced the suggestion that blogging offered special benefits, including to the elder population, and made communicating this message to others my mission.

Blogging beneficiaries, I realized, can include those who are separated from loved ones and friends; those who may have lived longer than their family members and friends but are now alone; and those with limitations preventing their usual community socialization. These are just some types of individuals I recall reading Ronni Bennett describe as potential bloggers. When I unexpectedly became a new widow I developed an added interest in blogging. Coupled with my awareness of some of the needs of the primarily older population with which I worked and my special interest in language and communication, promoting blogging ideas especially resonated with me.

I had long been dedicated to the value and importance of communication and had thought even then of ways in which to facilitate this for others. I now became a strong advocate for blogging. Regretfully, these past few years I have met with little genuine adoption of elderblogging locally, or at least I'm unaware of any who have joined our blogging community as a result of my promotion.

One of my disappointments on this self-adopted project during these years has been encountering the continued prevalence of those same blogging-as-dangerous false perceptions held by others since I first began blogging, despite my extensive efforts to demonstrate otherwise – and I do mean extensive in terms of time I have expended and education I've provided others. I became doubly dedicated to this goal following my husband's death, to the exclusion of some other matters requiring my attention. This activity may have been healthy by serving as a distraction from my situation. Whatever -- I've since concluded that if I hadn't been focusing on elderblogging promotion, I likely would have found something else to avoid taking personal actions I needed to be taking.

I extended myself in this elder blogging promotion effort on a personal level in full knowledge, given the suspicious attitudes toward blogging I encountered, that doing so could adversely affect my professional credibility with some, though I tried to carefully differentiate between the personal and the professional. Fortunately, so far, I have experienced no evidence of negative effects in attitude toward me professionally. On a personal level I experience from some others an indulgent somewhat subtle jocular reaction conveying one of superior tolerance toward what they regard as my idiosyncratic behavior and possible poor judgment with regard to my actually blogging.

Not because of the attitudes I encounter, but I have since stopped deliberate blogging promotion after several years directly trying to facilitate interest and adoption of blogging in some elder settings. I am sure most know by now I offer my support should they ever wish to pursue the matter. I have detected in others an increasing awareness and acknowledgment that blogging might be an interesting respectable activity as they note more and more traditional broadcast news and print media personalities promoting their own blogs.

Yet recently, I had a conversation with an intelligent professional person I've known for years who has periodically expressed interest in my blogging experience. The person has previously requested my assistance locating my blog and others to read. Yet, what I heard expressed was vague language, again, about the threats and dangers lurking in the blogosphere. When pressed for specifics, the stories of the few exploited by the press were cited as justification to condemn all blogging. My hope for eventual support from this person and others to facilitate aspects of blogging in one prime elder setting clearly is still not present. In another, where I had some success, any plans are on an indeterminate time line hold given the current economic situation.

While I didn't discuss the above with Bob, we did note a shared lack of interest in blogging for a variety of reasons by so many with whom we individually interact in our separate lives and locales.

Returning to the story of my entry into the blogosphere, what precipitated my first blog comment months before I started my own blog, and why it's significant to my choosing to actually meet another blogger .....

I was reading TGB's November 2005 post "The Nature of Blog Friends" and comments about meeting other bloggers in person as a consequence of contact through blogging. I was suddenly strongly motivated to make a comment. I still was apprehensive about having my name on the Internet, so I quickly contrived a blog name under which I could post. I felt some concern that in order even to do that, I did have to input into the system verification of my email address, but trusted the information would remain confidential as promised.

I wrote my first blog comment basically expressing reservations about ever meeting another blogger in person:

"I feel some reticence when it comes to security and privacy issues. Additionally, I believe I could be quite content to limit contact to just through blogs."

Three years plus have passed since then. My thoughts and beliefs have evolved through increased knowledge and experience. I've written many comments on numerous blogs, exchanged private email with a few bloggers, and even spoken by phone with another. I felt pleased a year ago to be invited to meet in person with another Southern California blogger whose blog's personal memoir writings and professional photos I enjoy. I have been unable to arrange that visit due to personal scheduling complications, but still look forward to doing so in the future if the offer continues to be extended after all this time.

Meanwhile, this past week, upon learning a blogger, Bob, from the Midwest Great Lakes area would possibly be near my community, I expressed interest and willingness to meet in person with him should his schedule allow this meeting. Accommodatingly and coincidentally, my work schedule modulated so I had the necessary flexibility to adjust to his uncertain travel time schedule so we could meet.

My first contact with Bob a year or two ago occurred after I re-visited "Ageless Project" and on a whim thought I'd randomly contact bloggers listed there with my same birth year. His blog is one I've since enjoyed reading when he periodically publishes. We've commented on each others blogs, and exchanged short infrequent but occasional emails. He wrote reassuringly of having successfully filled his personal life after major life changes. I've found this to be encouraging that I, too, could continue on life's journey fulfilling my own new life. So, when we recently actually met we had this limited but significant background as one facet of our known lives.

So, one day this past week between rain storms (known here as "California sunshine,") we shared coffee and conversation for an hour or two, though I truly lost track of time, at a casual restaurant where my communities locals and visitors congregate. I enjoyed meeting him and his travel buddy. Our nearby local library provided needed computer access for his friend while we talked, and later for him. I was quite comfortable and at ease the entire time. To some extent I sensed Bob was someone I already knew by virtue of our prior contact through blogging. I felt no awkwardness with the conversation that flowed rapidly.

We could easily reference previously exchanged information much as friends might, expand on other matters we might have only briefly mentioned before and introduce new topics. I learned of some of Bob's special service activities and other interests shared with a long time friend who wasn't on this trip, and his family as we skipped from topic to topic. There seemed hardly time to explore specific accounts of his most recent outdoors activities that had drawn him and his friend to Southern California. Perhaps he'll write about them, if he has time, once he returns home, but his trip is far from over yet.

When we parted I had the sense that we could easily have continued talking longer about a variety of subjects. Our shared time was short since he and his travel companion needed to be on their way. More heavy rain storms were coming from the coast. Further up the West Coast where Bob was headed they needed to drive through elevated passes where snow was predicted as low as the 3000 ft level. I knew often that highway had to be closed in such circumstances, so time was of the essence for them to travel through before sundown or snow intensified.

Meeting Bob was a delightful experience as was the brief contact I had with his travel friend. I'm glad we had the opportunity to meet in person. I have no doubt that bloggers can meet outside the blogosphere's virtual world and enjoy friendship.

15 comments:

  1. "....an indulgent somewhat subtle jocular reaction conveying one of superior tolerance toward what they regard as my idiosyncratic behavior and possible poor judgment with regard to my actually blogging..."

    Do you know the same people I do? This is the reaction I get nearly every time; that or a fear of axe murderers! LOL

    I know how pleasant it can be to meet fellow bloggers; having met about 10-12 by now. At this point, I have no qualms about it at all, and I look forward to meeting more!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Kenju: Yeah, those mass murderers and every other horror story that has ever occurred to anyone known to have made contact with another person on the Internet, and most especially in the blogosphere, is ample justification to not go there.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well, before now I was happy in thinking that I would like to meet Kenju and Joared in person. Now that I know you are axe murderers in disguise....

    Glad you jumped into the water and are having a fine time!
    Cop Car

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm so glad that you and Bob had a great time. I do understand your trepidation. I've been there, too, but the online friends I've met have been, for the most part, really great people.

    You are definitely in the Top Ten on the list of bloggers I'd love to meet and that list keeps growing!!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have the feeling that I already know the blog friends I have made. I would welcome a personal visit from any of them and I am sure we could share your experience with Bob.

    I have friends here who are frightened to tackle the Internet, much less a blog. New technology is beyond them and they don't want to learn. It's too bad because the computer has changed my life. I don't have time to feel lonely and the Internet has helped me in numerous ways. (It hasn't helped me balance my check book, though. ;-). I know it's still my fault, but -----)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Cop Car: You are wise to avoid even the appearance of contact with evil, but you're safe here as I've reformed myself.

    Kay: You, like so many bloggers, I'm learning, have met numerous others in person through blogging. Methinks the reservations for not doing so are highly exaggerated.

    Darlene: Yes, the reluctance to learn new technology, or expand the basic technical skills some of my friends have does seem to be a deterrent to blogging for many. Maybe a blogger snowbird will fly your way and the opportunity to greet in person another blogger is in your future.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think that if a person has any common sense, meeting bloggers in person isn't at all fraught with concern. I've met dozens now and in fact, another is traveling here from Boston next week (a lovely two-hour train ride) just for lunch at my place and a good, long, get-to-know-you-better chat.

    I hope this is the beginning of more bloggers for you.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am glad you had such a good first time meeting experience. I haven't yet met any bloggers but have met internet friends (where we originally met through chat rooms) and it's always been good. I don't rush to do it, get to know someone first, be sure we are looking for the same thing but so far the 10 internet friends I have met have all been exactly as I expected. Some have become house guests and it's worked out beautifully. To invite someone into my home though requires knowing them fairly long. The advantage of blogging to make friends is you have their blogs to get to know them and then emails, instant messaging, or phone conversations.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Ronni: Glad you're continuing to have bloggers visiting you in Maine -- sorta like a pilgrimage most Elderbloggers would likely enjoy making as would I (but it's not exactly an afternoon train ride from California,) just as they might like to be going to hear you speak in their hometown, if you did that sort of thing.

    Re blogging, I think what is intimidating, even overwhelming for some individuals is so much newness at one time -- learning how to use computer digital technology (some don't even know how to type/keyboard;) just figuring out what's credible in ordinary search web sites; then possibly simultaneously determining what blogs and bloggers are all about. That just scratches the surface of what's involved for some newbies.

    Many people starting blogs already have honed computer skills in their work or privately. They have had a few years of ongoing explorative Internet activites as the Net was developing. Some had already become accustomed to interacting on the Internet with others they had never personally met when they engaged in games and chat rooms. Many people, especially older ones, again like me, haven't had that extensive background.

    Some newcomers devote long hours daily to learning and exploring the Internet, but a lot of the people I encounter don't want to devote that much time regularly, and some like me, simply can't. This sense of being overwhelmed by what is thought to be required to be confident developing these computer, Internet usage and blogging skills may account for the reticence and apprehension some individuals feel.

    I know when I obtained my first computer I never really had much time to explore the Internet. I was just figuring out how to use the computer to get around a bit on the net for an hour or two, maybe every other day or so. By some fluke early on I read a brief newspaper article about "blogs" that stimulated my curiosity to learn more. The next thing I knew I was all caught up in the blogosphere that used any computer time I had.

    Suddenly my personal life events went topsy turvey and I just stuck with what I knew on the computer without exploring much more.

    Rain: Continuing my above comment while responding to you, I've never been in any chat rooms or played any group games on the Internet because I never had the time to get to the point where I could even try to find out about them. I don't know where to find them, or what ones to participate in and what to avoid.

    I have used the Google real time chat a few times in the past with one blogger, actually setup Skype for a free phone conference one time (my system for that is no longer operative,) but if there are other communication schemes, I don't know what they are.

    I'm sure there's a lot more on the Internet about which I would be curious -- like how to easily and relatively quickly find other types of quality interest groups besides Elderbloggers. Perhaps when I have lots of free time some year in my future I can devote myself to searching for these.

    Meanwhile, it takes all my computer use time writing this blog, visiting other blogs (but not as often as I would like,) and staying connected to the Internet. On this tech problem count (which seems in remission recently, though my computer may be dying,) good news is in the offing in March for my improved technical future.

    Glad to hear you've had such enjoyable experiences meeting others through the Internet. When I finally get my house in order I may eventually give some consideration to house guests, other than my family, too. I would certainly agree with you about approaching that with due consideration.

    ReplyDelete
  10. First of let me say--I've met 5 or 6 Bloggers "In Person"...Two coming from quite a distance and both of those bloggers I have seen more than once....In fact, one is in Southern California once again, and I've seen her each time she has visited her brother, which make three times, and hopefully will see her one more time--in March---before she returns to Arkansas. And because of my Health Issues, people have to come here to my home. My feeling about all this is: People blogging are more likely presenting themselves as they really are and not in some false persona---at least ALL of the Bloggers I read on a regular basis, and certainly all the Bloggers I have met are EXACTLY who they are on their Blogs! I have found it very enriching. My only problem these days is my Health Issues are more of a struggle so, I have to find ways of visiting that are easy for me to do. So far, so good! I have met the bloggers themselves and in almost each case, their spouses...And my Arkansas pal--I've met her brother and her son!
    So, I emcourage you to continue this journey, my dear...It truly does have some lovely rewards.

    BTW: When I go to my own blog, evrrything looks perfect! Go Figure! I have no idea whatsover why the text would be so screwed up---But it isn't a problem on my computer, at all.....! Blogger....it has a mind of it's own. One would think that Mercury is STILL Retrograde, but it is not! (LOL) And, the problems I was having was getting the Cideos embeded correctly....And I know that wasn't me. It was definitely Blogger.

    ReplyDelete
  11. What to say? It's fun to read about how blogging has changed people's lives and opened up new possibilities for friendship. Those who scorn blogging don't know what they are missing. I have friends who won't use e-mail, even.
    I have made sone new friends recently via the Internet, and I consider them closer friends in some ways than my face to face friends. I have a better idea of where they are coming from, somehow. And how else would I have ever gotten to know them than through blogging?

    ReplyDelete
  12. I enjoyed reading about your first visit with a blog friend. I have never had the pleasure of meeting with any fellow bloggers but I feel as if I know you and many others whose blogs I visit.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I first met bloggers face to face four years after I started blogging, and since I had read their blogs for quite some time I had a certain idea to go with before I met them.

    I suppose with some bloggers there's always an apprehension of possible dangers blogging holds, and it could take time to resolve the apprehensions.

    I read with interest your take on meeting bloggers.

    ReplyDelete
  14. My meeting you, Joared, was one of the highlights in my travel to Southern California. As I was waiting for you in the restaurant my thoughts were about how will I recognize you since we didn't agree on some method of identification. That was the least of my concerns. What would we talk about? Was one. No problem. We bloggers are revealing ourselves as we post and comment. So Joared, I was most pleased to meet a fellow blogger face to face. The experience was an enriching one to say the least.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Joared:
    So glad you had a mind open enough to overcome initial hesitations about revealing yourself on the internet. We're all richer for your blog.

    ReplyDelete