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09 October 2009

Question for those of you who have been to meetups I was talking to a friend about Mefi meetups [More:] and she said I must be really lonely, because if I wasn't lonely I would have no desire to meet people from the Internet. I was a bit speechless. How would you have responded to this?
I'd probably be speechless, too, if I ever hung out with people that clueless, but I try not to (do I have any non-internet people friends anymore? doubt it). I suppose you could say something about how people on the internet are just like regular people, but it's probably pearls before swine.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 09 October | 16:03
"Well, since some of the people I meet face to face are as clueless and simpleminded as y---- uh, never mind."

I do not advise this as a snappy comeback.
posted by Elsa 09 October | 16:11
Yeah, not sure what I would say either. As much as I love Mefi, I never really talk about it in depth with people I don't know well. It's something a lot of people will simply not get. I assume these are also the people that still send in checks to pay bills and think online dating is for weird old men.

That said, I do have many many friends who light up with joy when I tell them how I get to meet cool people who I would never get to meet through my own social circles.

So..don't take that comment personally. It's not you, it's them.
posted by special-k 09 October | 16:16
That person sounds like an asshole, TBH. I've got loads more friends online that I'm much closer with than people I know in person. (And I still pay bills with checks damnit.)
posted by sperose 09 October | 16:20
is "Fuck off jerkface" too strong for this person? Cause *damn*.
posted by The Whelk 09 October | 16:22
The couple of times I've been in this conversation, I've pretty much shrugged it off. See, I look at meet-ups as "meeting people", not as "meeting internet people", that is, as socializing not as substituting the internet for human interaction. I think when people have this reaction to "tonight I'm going out with my internet friends" it's because they don't spend a lot of internet time with the people they knew before the internet and don't have meaningful human interaction via the internet. If I didn't use social media to keep my friends and family close, and if my only exposure to "people on the internet" was youtube comments or ads, I might think it was a way for lonely people to meet. But I was used to chatting with people I knew first as people, then as screennames, when I started hanging around metafilter, so it never struck me as a refuge for the sad, lonely or socially awkward.

But I just shrug it off when it comes up. Occasionally I ask, well, how do you make new friends?
posted by crush-onastick 09 October | 16:23
More seriously: some people really are mired in a worldview where The Internet is some shadowy other-place, and the people you meet there are vague shapes taking advantage of the darkness to claim identities they do not have. (And I know that on occasion this is the case.) It's going to be difficult to persuade someone out of this viewpoint.

Before my first MeFi meetup, someone half-jokingly (the kind of joking that is actually deadly serious) asked how I knew y'all weren't a bunch of axe-murderers. I pointed out that
A) a mixed group is safer than a one-to-one meeting;
B) when I was single, I frequently had one-to-one meetings with men I just barely knew (they're called "first dates!"), and no one thought that was weird or dangerous;
C) this internet thingie is just one of the social matrices of our world, and we'd do well to get used to it.

These cautions always remind me of the turn-of-the-century admonistions against getting to know strangers on long ocean voyages; the idea was that bounders are suddenly unfettered from their social contexts and can take advantage of Decent People.
posted by Elsa 09 October | 16:25
I think of meetups as good places to meet people who have at least something in common with me other than simply being in the same place at the same time. I mean, I encounter hundreds of people on any given day, and I might very well have something in common with some of them, but, just walking down the street, how would I ever know? I'm sociable, and I get out a lot, but most people I come across are here one minute, gone the next. Of the ones I do talk to, and there are many, there's a very small likelihood of having anything in common with, other than the fact that we're in the same bar or bookstore or office.

When I go to a meetup, there's a high likelihood of meeting folks with whom I share interests, even if I don't have any particular association with them via the site. And a lot of the time, I do have a particular association with them, and can explore that, and build on it, without the grinding small talk first. I knew going into the last meetup that cortex (and others) were into music, and would like to play with me--I wouldn't just bring my guitar to some random bar (though that might be interesting, I suppose).

This very morning, I gave a tour of my office to a fellow MeChazen; I guess I could have accosted a random stranger on the street, but that wold have carried substantially more risk than walking an "internet friend" around my workplace.
posted by mrmoonpie 09 October | 16:58
"You must be really lonely to:

-- attend services at your local house of worship, even though you yourself are not all that religious.

-- hang out in a bar with high-functioning alcholics with whom you have not a whole lot in common.

-- work out at a local gym and and chat with other regulars

-- take adult education classes

-- get involved in local politics

-- etc.

-- etc."
posted by jason's_planet 09 October | 17:27
Pfft. I recently moved to a new city, and most of the new friendships I have made have been at least tangentially helped through El Interneto. I mean, what am I supposed to do? Wear a sandwich board that lists me interests and stand on street corners screaming WANT TO BE MY FRIEND?!?! at people?

I've been to enough Metafilter meetups now that I've had to explain to my boyfriend and roommates what it entails when I say "I'm going to go hang out with internet people!" And they could look down on me for it, I suppose, but they're the ones staying home and rewatching Woody Allen movies while I'm watching porn and drunkenly screaming karaoke lyrics.

posted by Juliet Banana 09 October | 17:49
watching porn and drunkenly screaming karaoke lyrics.

That's some crazy karaoke places you've got over there...
posted by qvantamon 09 October | 17:59
Pfft. I recently moved to a new city, and most of the new friendships I have made have been at least tangentially helped through El Interneto. I mean, what am I supposed to do? Wear a sandwich board that lists me interests and stand on street corners screaming WANT TO BE MY FRIEND?!?! at people?

I smell a Halloween costume!
posted by The Whelk 09 October | 18:33
It would have left me speechless as well. People had that attitude ten years ago. Oy vey. But I think crush has it right - some people just don't see the social aspect of the internet and dismiss it out of hand and/or get into fear mongering (axe murderer! omg!).
posted by deborah 09 October | 19:09
She says "lonely" like it's an indictment.
posted by Obscure Reference 09 October | 19:43
I would point out that I met my boyfriend online, so the internet's had a pretty good track record for me in terms of meeting great people.
posted by scody 09 October | 19:44
Thanks everyone. I think part of the problem is that she's on Facebook and is very pretty and gets a lot of scum hitting on her, so I think that is what she thinks of when she thinks of "internet people."
posted by IndigoRain 09 October | 19:58
Today, I met three different people from inside the computer. One brought me Moxie. Your friend's a fuckin' snob.
posted by jonmc 09 October | 20:35
I'd've probably just said something like, 'Yeah, I'm a little bit lonely. And without people from the Internet, I'd be a whole lot lonelier.'
posted by box 09 October | 21:27
Oh, god. My dad's boss once called my ex "your little internet friend" after finding out we met online, but that was the 90s.
posted by dhartung 09 October | 21:29
Even people who ought to get it, who use the internet for meeting people to date and whatever, sometimes don't. Among others, my mother still gives me a weird look when I mention Metafilter and expresses polite disbelief that mefi/chazens are diverse, interesting, generally-non-basement-dwelling people. This while accepting that no one thinks twice about her meeting a number of people with whom she first corresponded online, or says things to her like, "But how do you know she really lives in a gatehouse? Oh, she isn't really a Dante scholar- that's just something she says."
posted by notquitemaryann 09 October | 22:54
You know, some of the coolest, most educated, and friendly folks I've ever met for the very first time in real life have been at the two MeFi meetups I've ever attended.

One of them only had one other MeFite who was traveling cross-country in attendance, and I was the host. Sorry, -t, I did try to get more people to show up. Happy to give you a free bed with air-conditioning.

I have plenty of real-life friends and acquaintances, but my internet friends round out my existence. How else would I be able to visit with excellent folks in Japan and Australia, etc. if not for the internet?

You don't have to be "lonely" to round out your interactions with interesting people. Expanding your circle of sane folks is always ok.

I've had the flu this week, so have been mostly in bed, on cold meds, and miserable. Let me tell you, THAT is lonely.

posted by lilywing13 10 October | 03:35
I have shared a smoke with jonmc at a meetup and have festooned ThePinkSuperhero with dozens of pink Mardi Gras beads (did she show for them? I'll never tell). The internet is just one more way to meet peeps.
posted by ColdChef 10 October | 11:59

One of the funny things about people's opinions about 'the internet' is that their idea that there's one 'internet' is a demonstration of their ignorance. The internet's a big place, kind of like the world. People do a lot of different things within it, kind of like the world. I can sit around and list off several hundred types of non-internet-related meetups you wouldn't catch me at on a cold day in hell; that definitely doesn't make them superior to internet meetups.

Enjoying life is all about connecting with individuals and groups of people with whom you have something in common - even if it's a preference for a certain type of information exchange and commentary with a dose of relatively intelligent goofball humor. It doesn't really matter where you find your people, as long as you are seeking out the kind of people you truly enjoy. I have a great life, full of wonderful friends, many many of whom I met in meatspace; but I've also met a lot of creepy, dull, or assholey people in meatspace, and they're a lot harder to ignore there. Meatspace ain't everything.

Meanwhile, the internet has been exceedingly good to me in bringing me into contact with some really lovely, interesting, funny, bright people who I'd just never have crossed paths with if we relied upon being in physical proximity and becoming chummy. If you're only meeting people through meatspace interactions, your social network is probably pretty parochial.
posted by Miko 10 October | 23:29
Feelin' Existential? || Aziz Ansari and Aubrey Plaza are in a really bad night club