When I was a kid growing up I never had many friends. I was used to being alone because I was an only child up until I was a teenager and my sister and brothers came along. I had 3 or 4 friends on my street (well actually it was a dirt road) down in Mississippi; George, Ray, Andrew, and Carl Jr. Then when I moved to DC back in the 1950's I never had many friends there either, in part because we moved several times. I was shy and didn’t make friends easy and I remember that when we moved from one neighborhood to another I would cry a bit because I missed the friends I had made at school and in the neighborhood. The one exception to that was when we moved after I had met my best friend Ernest, whom I blogged about a few months ago. That’s because we have kept in touch to this day.
And I never was one to join organizations and make friends. I just continued to be pretty much a loner in high school and in college. I did a few things but never joined a fraternity and made no lasting friendships in college. I have no high school or college friends whom I am in touch with now. My circle of friends, other than those on the internet, includes all of about five people. Then along came the internet and my world changed. Like many of you I started my online odyssey on the Blackplanet web site. Then I migrated through Black Voices, Ebony Voices, Urban Dour, Yahoo360, and finally now Facebook. Now the great thing about the internet is even though I moved from Maryland to North Carolina I have retained as friends a lot of the great people I have met online. Some of my internet friends I have known from previous web sites about eight or nine years. Many of my online friends I have known so long that I have forgotten which web site I met them on. And that does not matter as the important thing is that after all of the years we are still friends.
One of the great things about meeting people online is you get to know them and they get to know you without leaving your home. But the bonus for me is when I get to meet them in person. Its kinda like seeing a long lost friend for the first time in years. Or like meeting a relative that you didn’t know that you had. It puts a more personal touch on that person’s face and page on the internet. You feel closer and more connected to them because that’s someone you spoke to face to face and shook a hand and/or with hugged.
When I periodically clean my friends’ list of people who don’t communicate with me there are three categories of people who get to stay. First are those who communicate with me on at least an occasional basis. Then those who are family regardless of whether we communicate. And finally, those whom I have personally met always get a pass because they are to me just like family. It does not matter to me for the people in that group how much, or little, we communicate. They are special friends.
Some of you know about the many meet and greet affairs that have been held around the country. They were first called Blackplanet Meet & Greets because when they started most people who attended had a web page on Blackplanet. Now they are just called Meet and Greets. And they are not for hookups or match making; they are just ways to meet your online friends in a nice non-threatening and pressure free environment. Some men come alone and/or with other male friends. Some women come alone and/or with other women friends. A few couples come also. However, there tend to be more women attending than men. And that’s an issue that we wish we knew the answer to; why men will not attend the gatherings the same as women will. Its not like the events are costly because there are no ticket sales and the venues are usually places where at most there may be a small cover charge for admission. And, most importantly, there is no obligation to buy drinks for yourself or anyone else. All you have to do is come and have fun, dance if you want to or just sit and talk, laugh and have a great time. And while the affairs tend to draw the age 30 and over people, there is generally a variety of music played at the venues selected, especially the latest line dances like the "Wobble". We Wobbled in KC; at least some did and other watched like I did.
Some have proposed reasons why more women attend than men. And its usually a discussion of why the guys don’t show up. One recent post about the subject proposed that some guys don’t show because they have been “hitting on” one or more (and likely the more) of the women who will be there and they don’t want to be “busted”. There is probably some truth to that for some. Now I don’t believe its because they are cheap or strapped for funds because as I said the is really little or no cost to attend. I think some of it is related to men having an aversion to meeting other men online. I will not mention a name but I remember having one guy reply to me when I sent a friend request that he was a straight person and not gay. Back in my time on Yahoo360 I remember that I would often have male friends who posted regularly on the pages of women but rarely if ever said a word to me. It was as though they only wanted to be friends with the women. Now I have no problem with being friends with the women but friendships with the guys can be great also.
In the beginning when we met someone on the internet we would more than likely know them only by a screen name, like Tinkertoy. But it is through the meet and greets that we really get to know people and their real names. And that’s one of the joys of the meet and greets, learning more about your friends by sitting around just chatting. There are some great guys that I have met face to face as a result of online friendships are.
I must mention first my friend Donny, who along with a couple other people, started the Blackplanet Meet & Greets. And Donny has done a great job of promoting internet friendships with the meet & greets and also by making the trips to wherever the events have been held around the country. Another person who is doing a great job of promoting internet friendships is Sam. He is a member of a group called The Inner Circle which produces affairs all year long. But Sam is also a huge supporter of the meet and greets, travels to many of them along the east coast.
I think I first met Naquam on Urbandour. We didn’t meet Terrence ... aka Naquam, at a meet & greet but through an arranged meeting place in Los Angeles. We were traveling through LA and just asked whether we would be near where we could all meet face to face, have lunch and chat a while, and he said yes. Naquam is a great guy and a talker who has lots of great stories to tell about his life. I think I met TDubs on Urbandour also. We also met Lamar ... aka ... Tdubs at the same time and place as we met Naquam. We learned a little bit about his occupation and also that he plays a bass in a band; he’s a real music lover.
I think I first met Howard, ..aka, BDCC, BigdaddyCC, on UrbanDour.. And then again on Yahoo360 with the link to his personal web site. My all time favorite of his blogs is the one about the Gopher Wood and Noah’s Ark. It was great to finally meet this prolific writer at a meet and greet in Atlanta, Ga. He’s really different in person from the writer you read online. We first met Robert ....aka .... RBC at a Blackplanet meet & greet 7 or 8 years ago. Discovered that we are both graduates of the same college. As I recall I first met Harold, ... aka ... Hoss: online on Yahoo360. But it was great to see him in person when we had a brief stopover in Chicago. When you see him in person you know why the name Hoss is very appropriate. I just met Kevin on Facebook and after a little chatting concluded that we are related somewhere on the family tree. We had the pleasure of meeting him in person just a few months ago in Las Vegas.
Now there are other guys I met and/or have been communicating with online for a while whom I hope one day to meet in person. People who have been friends online for years like Darrin, Carlos, Tucker, Gene, Mike ... aka ... Magic Mike, and Shelly ..aka ... Solemann King. My point of this rambling piece is that the internet is a great place to meet friends and a personal meeting at a meet & greet, or even one you arrange yourself, is a great way to solidify friendships. And I purposely mentioned only the guys I have met to show that there is benefit in meeting the guys and no reason to be afraid to have male friends. When we see each other we give a hug just like family.
We met these friends in Atlanta; they came from NJ, Texas and Maryland
We met these friends in Las Vegas ... knew them from the Blackplanet site.
Enjoying our friends in Wilmington Delaware at a new years gala
Met these friends in Chicago on our way back home from a train trip
Met this great guy in Los Angeles; he drove about 50 miles to meet and have lunch with us.