Thanks to the internet, you can make friends faster than ever. But when you're tired of matching up your time zones for a weekly catchup or something's headed in a romantic direction, looking for flights might take up all of your spare time.
Meeting online friends in real life can be simultaneously exciting and terrifying. But, so long as you think a few things through and consider your safety, you might walk away with a brand new bestie.
5 Things to Consider Before Meeting Online Friends IRL
Before buying a plane ticket and booking a place to stay near your friend, maybe pump the brakes a bit. We know you might want to jump right to the exciting part where you've moved straight to good old-fashioned middle school sleepover fun, but it might not be the right time to meet your online friends. So, take these points into consideration before breaking that virtual barrier.
1. How Long Have You Been Talking?
Talking to someone for a long time doesn't necessarily mean you really know them, so take a minute to ponder your connection. How much do you really know about them? And what details about their life have they shared with you over the years?
If you've known them for years and you couldn't say if they have any siblings or what their hobbies are, you probably should give yourself some more time to get acquainted before hanging out together.
2. Have You Video Chatted Before?
If you've ever seen an episode of MTV's Catfish, you know that the biggest red flag with a long-distance relationship is not video chatting. If someone persistently avoids talking to you face-to-face on any of the loads of apps out there, it's probably best not take a chance planning an internet friends meeting irl.
Sharing your face can be a vulnerable thing to do, but it's necessary when talking with strangers online. If you or they aren't comfortable just sharing what you look like from the shoulders up, then you have to wonder if either of you are really emotionally ready to take that next step and be in each other's spaces.
3. How Far Away Are They?
Distance is a practical, albeit bummer, factor to consider. If you live countries and oceans away from each other, then you should probably make sure that your relationship with that person is well-developed. It won't be fun traveling thousands of miles away from home just to sit in awkward silence because you jumped the gun before knowing each other well.
4. What's the Impetus to See Them in Person?
Now, you could live your whole life with online friends that you never meet, and that doesn't make them any less close to you. So, when you're considering meeting with your online friends in real life, think about what's the reason for bridging that gap.
For example, if you're heading to an event together, then you've got a built-in day of activities that can fill any of the awkward silences as you feel each other's in-person quirks out. But if you're spending money and time to visit just because you want to validate your connection, then the trip might not pan out the way you wanted it to.
5. What Do You Want to Get Out of Meeting Them?
Measuring your expectations is a major part of growing up. If you're thinking about meeting an old online friend in-real-life, consider what you want to walk away from it with. Are you just looking for a good conversation and to spend an afternoon or two together? Or are you looking for a week-long vacation spent in each other's pockets?
The answer doesn't matter so much as figuring out what the answer is. Once you know what you're looking for, you can be honest with your friend about what your expectations are and you can decide together if you're both in a place to meet those expectations.
If you're worried about not having enough to talk about, be prepared with a few interesting ideas of things to talk about to help keep the conversation flowing.
Keep Yourself Safe With These Tips
We wouldn't be doing our Y2K internet safety due diligence if we didn't mention some safety tips for you to protect yourself with. At the end of the day, you never really know anyone, and you can't be too safe, either.
- Never stay in someone else's house or have a stranger stay in yours.
- Share your travel plans and location with people you trust.
- Leave your friend's contact information with the people close to you.
- If it's legal in the area, carry pepper spray or a stun gun, just in case.
- Don't take any substances or drink any alcohol the first time you visit.
- Leave a location tracker tag in your pocket during that first meeting.
- Try not to get in the car with anyone you don't know, but if you can't avoid it, send a picture of the license plate to a friend or family member.
- Ask to see their driver's license to verify what they've told you (and cough up your own for good measure).
- Meet at a high-trafficked location, never someone's house.
You Can Never Have Too Many Friends
In a post-pandemic world, making friends isn't as easy as it used to be, but technology has been a vital friendship force in the past decade. Whether it's through social media, forums, or through comment sections, people are making fast friends online. And so long as you carefully think through your specific connection and treat safety as a priority, you should travel the world to spend the day with your online bestie.