Who’s Your Favorite Online Person You’ve Never Met?

Have you ever had the chance to meet someone in person that you’ve only met online?

If you have, you know that strange feeling of trying to match a person’s picture to the body in front of you. It’s exciting as if you’re meeting a celebrity, and yet terrifying at the same time. Will we be best friends? What if we don’t really hit it off, and we disagree on everything when we actually talk? What if I can’t be my online self or they don’t seem to be theirs?

Most of the time, though, it’s a total blast to share a meal together and spend some quality time in real life with people you only know online. Here’s what happened for me last year:

2009: John & Rhett

I'm the least good looking white guy

In early 2009, I met John Saddington and Rhett Smith in person for the first time. I had corresponded online with John for several years (2005?) and Rhett and I had twittered a bit, but this was the first time we all were able to meet in person (one of Rhett’s goals).

At first, from a distance, I thought, “Wow. Rhett is better looking online than in real life.” Then I came up close and thought, “Whoa, he’s jacked and I was wrong – he is better looking in real life than his picture.” I also quickly realized that the kindness and warmth you see from Rhett online in his blog posts and tweets comes across even stronger in person. Since then, our wives and kids and met, and I even had the chance to have lunch with his dad which allowed me to see even more about who Rhett really is.

As for John, we had been emailing long before things like twitter, facebook, and gravatar were common enough to have a common mental picture of what someone looked like. Instead, my “image” of him was more related to what I thought his personality and temperament would be like. Since I had only a few emails to go by, it was fascinating to match the Human3rror in my mind to the John Saddington in front of me. It was great to sit back and watch how he could be intense and still relaxed, quiet and yet funny, kind yet with strong opinions. All that’s there online, but  I appreciated getting to see it all together at once, and still know there’s tons of cool stuff about John I don’t know.

2010: ???

Looking back at that time, I think John and Rhett were the two people that I knew only online that I most wanted to meet in person some day. I’m sure glad that we had the chance, and that they still seem to like me now that we’ve hung out a few times.

Today, one person that I know only through writing, but would love to meet in person is Matt Lee Anderson. Of course, there are tons of big name web celebrities that would be fun to meet, but Matt is someone that I’ve actually been able to engage on a thoughtful level and dialog with about various issues. I think I know someone of his sharp mind and general kindness, but I also know that I won’t really have the whole picture without meeting him in person some time. And I genuinely look forward to that day.

Another person with whom I’ve corresponded quite a bit is Ryan Burns of Logos Software. Unlike Matt whom I’ve spent more time discussing ideas, I’ve “watched” major events in Ryan’s life unfold online as he attended seminary, left, started up various web ventures, moved to Logos, and so on. I would love to put a meal between the two of us one day.

How About You?

So do you have a person you only know online that you’d like to meet in person sometime your? I don’t mean someone that you’ve heard about, but someone that you’ve had some great conversations with through some medium – pen pals, email, blog comments, twitter, etc. – with whom you’d love to be able to sit down share a meal.

Who’s the person you’d love to someday say, “Remember the time when we…?”

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John Dyer

In my day job, I work at Dallas Theological Seminary, and at night I write Bible software for countries whose leaders could be called "overlords." This one time, I wrote a book about technology and Christian faith. You can find out more about what I'm up to at http://j.hn/.

10 thoughts on “Who’s Your Favorite Online Person You’ve Never Met?”

  1. Pretty disappointed I didn’t’ make the list. :) I agree with all you’ve said about Rhett. Off the top of my head I’d probably say that I probably come at this from the other angle. I just checked my blogliines account and of the 32 blogs I regularly follow I realized that I know all of them really well. I guess that means I don’t branch out very much to people I don’t know but that’s probably my personality showing.

    I’ll throw out one name though of someone who I feel like I’ve watched for quite a few years and met once or twice but never had a conversation with and that’s Kevin Rose from Diggnation or more old school from The Screensavers. I’ve been watching his podcast since the beginning and that brings a weird “i know you but I don’t feeling”.

    1. Oh Larsy,
      You didn’t make the list because I met you in person before I ever really interacted with you online!

      I wouldn’t call 32 blogs “not branching out” – that’s quite a few people to know really well. And I concur – it would be fun to meet Mr. Rose.

    1. same… Interweb Breakdancing for God… I like that!

      Phillip… it would be good to meet you too! Just don’t know when I’ll be in Africa.

  2. Though not the same as meeting someone you’ve corresponded w/ directly, this is what happened the last time that I introduced myself to someone I only knew of from online.

  3. John,

    I mean to comment on this earlier.

    I just wanted to say thanks man. I have really enjoyed our friendship over this last year, and that was a great day when you, John and I were able to hang out. A lot of friendships that started as acquaintances online for me have really developed into some great stuff. Besides you and Scott McClellan, the other person who I met online who I have been able to hang out with regularly is Aaron Alexander.

    I love this stuff.


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