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The magic of real online friendships

online friendsIt was the winter of 2010. My husband were on our first and only cruise (so far) of our lives. It was a pretty freaking awesome cruise. It’s called Cayamo and it’s focused on Americana musicians who perform while you sail through the tropics for a week. I barely gorged on food during that trip because we were so enamored by the musical experience.

On the last night at the final performance of the trip, my husband and I met a couple sitting behind us. We talked for maybe 30 minutes and it was like we had stumbled into our new best friends. We had a similar sense of humor. They had the same intense love for the same music we loved intensely. It was awesome. The show started, we said goodbye and the next day we went our merry ways when the ship reached the dock.

But the couple we met decided they would track us down. We had shared some information about our careers that was searchable on the web. They initially reached out to us through email. Eventually we connected through Facebook. We have enjoyed cyber conversations together for the last four years through social media.

I had a chance to meet up with the couple on my own while I was visiting Atlanta during a conference last year. Obviously, we went to see a show. But we didn’t get to hang out very long. What was amazing was how the friendship launched over 30 minutes was still so great. We really enjoyed our time together.

Fast forward to this Fall. I started asking around about what my husband and I should do for our big birthday year. I turned 40 and he turned 50. It seemed like a kind of celebration that deserved travel and music. Our online cruise friends recommended New Orleans. We recruited my husband’s brother and his wife. Our online cruise friends invited us to stay with them at their New Orleans condo. And you know what, we had an amazing time. We enjoyed amazing food. We listened to great music. We were able to continue to grow a friendship that was founded through social media.

I’ve learned a few things from some pretty wonderful friendships I’ve built from social media relationships:

  1. Taking a relationship that started more online than in person is very possible to foster and grow. When you conduct yourself online exactly the way you conduct yourself in person, the connections you make online are as real as the ones in person.
  2. Find opportunities to meet in person. I’m so glad I found a way to see my friends in person last year. My husband didn’t get a chance to be there, but I know that one night visit helped prove the friendship we had formed is for real. That one in-person visit made this month’s New Orleans trip more possible.
  3. Not all friendships are “friends at first sight.” But if you ever stumble into one, take advantage of tools like email, social networks and even snail mail to keep the connection. It’s totally work it.

I’m clearly riding a high from our awesome short vacation with our online cruise friends. I look forward to finding a way to enjoy music together again sometime soon. I know we won’t wait another four and a half years before all of us can get together again.

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